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In our highly computerized world, we find ourselves spending more and more time in front of a computer terminal or bent over a laptop, sometimes in inconvenient places, like on the train commuting, at our children’s sports practices or in a waiting room somewhere.

Sitting for long periods at a computer increases our number of aches and pains in the neck, shoulder, upper and lower back, wrists and elbow joints. These problems can turn into symptoms of a more serious nature. Nerves to the hand can become compressed, causing weakness and/or tingling in the fingers. This could be a sign of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), which may include damage to tendons, muscles, nerves and other soft tissues from chronic use.

What Contributes to RSI?

Posture – slouching at the keyboard puts your spine and limbs in positions that increase strain.

Office configuration – a poorly designed workstation, where the keyboard or mouse is too high or low, will aggravate symptoms.

Technique – gripping the mouse too tightly and pounding the keyboard increases the demands of the hand and wrist.

Habits – sitting for long periods, without a break, places strain on the body. Breaks are necessary to relieve the strain on all body parts.

How to Reduce the Risk of RSI?

Stretch – build regular exercise into your routine every 20 to 60 minutes. Do 3 to 4 stretches of the hands, shoulders, neck and trunk. The key is to move your joints.

Move – take a short walk, and stretch, to promote blood flow to tired muscles.

Reduce Strain – adjust your chair, support your back and minimize awkward positions. Feet should be flat on the floor, your buttocks should be right back in the chair and your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle. Shoulders should be relaxed, arms close to your body and resting comfortably on armrests, so that elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle. Your keyboard may need to be adjusted so that your wrists are adequately aligned. Use a good quality mouse that does not require a lot of pressure to click. Use desk accessories, which encourage a neutral neck position. A wrist pad helps take the strain off the wrist.

When symptoms occur and are prolonged, consult with a physiotherapist before the symptoms escalate to something more severe. Early corrective action is important. Dorval Physiotherapy in Oakville will assess and develop an individualized treatment plan for your symptoms, provide you with stretches and exercises to relieve and correct the injury, and provide you with the necessary information to help you correct any habits that may be contributing to your problem.

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