Computer usage should be monitored
Although no national statistics exist on the topic, increasing numbers of repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome (pressure and swelling of the median nerve inside the narrow tunnels in the wrist bones) and tendonitis (an inflammation of the tendons which occur after repetitive motions or excessive stress) have been recorded among younger Americans.
Sore muscles in the lower back, wrists, and shoulders have been seen in many cases as young people sit at monitors for long periods of time. The results have been numbness, headaches, neck pain, upper back pain and stiffness of joints and muscles.
Sixty-five percent of American households have at least one computer, and schools provide almost one computer for every five students, so the opportunity for long-term injuries on young bodies is greater than ever.
Physical therapists suggest posture tips to prevent injuries:
- Keep feet on the ground, even if a stool is needed. Keep knees at a 90-degree angle to distribute weight and reduce pressure on the upper body.
- Sit up straight: Keep weight on buttocks and feet with pelvis straight up and down.
- Keep eyes level with the computer screen to reduce neck strain. Keep elbows and knees at right angles.
- Keep forearms parallel to the floor and elbows at a 90-degree angle.
- Shoulder blades should be relaxed on the posterior ribs.
- Use a mouse that fits the size of the child.
- Rest the eyes: children should look away from the computer every 10 minutes and focus on a distant object. Use a wrist rest for correct positioning.
- Take a break: encourage a break every 30 minutes. Use a glare screen to reduce reflections.
- Stretch and move: do head circles, and practice sit to stand.
Watch for problems such as headaches, fatigue, muscle pain or cramping.
October is national Physical Therapy Month. These tips are not intended as a substitute for professional health care.
More information can be obtained from your physical therapist or the American Physical Therapy Association's Web site at www.apta.org
Carolyn Bloom lives in Eudora. She is a physical therapist.