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Warning - Excessive computer usage

dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,832
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:49 AM in Exercise and Rehab
I was at Physical Therapy today and talked to several of the therapists. They had just returned from a 2 day conference that centered around the activities people do to hurt themselves the most.

There was a top 10 list, but I am not at liberty to identify the source or the details behind the study and conference.

But, in summary:

It was pretty clear and I think most people understand that improper lifting or lifting too heavy objects is about the number one activity people do to hurt themselves or re-injure previous conditions.

But what has been rising in order for the past several years is computer usage. They define computer usage as being on the computer and using keyboard/mouse. They did not include usage of cell phones/blacberries/games/etc

I for one can definitely say that computer usage is what finally put the nail in my coffin (sort of speaking)

I knew several years ago, that if I continued daily computer usage (and it was my job) that all the PT, massages, medications would all be for naught. The proof for me was that after I retired, there was a remarkable change in my overall condition. Most of my thoracic and cervical problems started to calm down.

What is scary, is knowing that there are many people out there that spend almost all day on the computer and it not even for work. They sign up for all sorts of blog and forum sites and spend almost the entire day posting here, posting there, etc.

Many times we read on this forum about 'Addiction' Mostly we talk about medications. But computer usage, especially excessive usage is just another form of addiction.

Folks that do not have insight into spinal problems may never understand this. But, I do hope that with everything that is posted here, the problem with spending 24/7 on the computer, joining all sites, etc does not exist.

It is the only intelligent thing once you understand the mechanics.

I know, I have stayed away from the computer for periods of time. You all know recently since my 10/13 surgery, I have had only very limited time online here. Others in the moderator group also have done this.

So, I guess I just what to reach out again, especially to the newer folks, who havent had the chance to read about all the various problems.

Limit your time on the computer!

People that spend excessive time on the computer are really just playing Russian Roulette

Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com


  • It can also be difficult when you're job searching and needing to do applications on the internet. Some are required to make seven applications in one week, documented, and each one can take up to two hours, believe it or not. Then there's the actually job searching - that can take half a day.

    Additionally, I'm a graphic designer so my job is to be on the computer all day (if I had a job, that is). So for me, it's a no-win situation. I can't believe how much computer work hurts my cervical spine.

    If I have to be on the computer for all the above stated reasons longer than I should, not only do I take frequent breaks to get up, but I also change the position of my computer - from my rolling table in front of my recliner, to my dining table, and to my lap while reclining in the recliner.

    Thanks for the reminder Ron. So many people believe that "I only have a computer job" after their cervical surgery and should be fine returning to work in a few weeks. Believe me, it's much more difficult that you think and for a longer time than you'd believe.
  • sunny1966ssunny1966 VIRGINIAPosts: 1,385
    Computers are one major problem with cervical problems I'm sure. I spend very little time on my laptop normally. Usually I'm on here more when I'm in the middle of a 'flare'. I know when I had to sit at our desk and use the computer it was worse than now when I recline and use the laptop.

    I went to the thread Metalneck posted and reading over it makes me wonder just which or how many of the stupid things I've done in my life actually started my problems! Now that I think back I just wonder why I'm not in worse shape than I am????

    Thanks Ron for the reminder. You're right too that it's addictive!

  • At my new employer they offer desks that raise up for those with back or neck problems..I have seen many people here with them. So far I am doing ok. I wear my TENS unit at times..and I get up and move around when I can. Soon to be working from home!!!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,832
    to look at the PC Workstation environment and to help design the best setup. This was before the real term 'ergonomics' even came into play.

    I worked up monitor stands, keyboard tilts, mouse aids. I spent almost 4 months working with a Neurologist and a Furniture company coming up with a design for a chair.

    The chair was built (1985 - at the cost of $2,750)
    It had cervical, lumbar support, it have elbow and wrist support all which could be raised/lowered, swivel in/out...

    But it was the ugliest looking chair I ever saw. That was built back in Danbury, and as of 2008 it resided in a workstation room in Poughkeepsie, NY.

    The bottom line!

    There is NO workstation environment/setup that will prevent problems when people spend excessive time on the computer. Period.

    The best way in dealing with all of this is to limit your time at the computer into sections. I have a computer alarm clock that rings every 45 minutes. I used that while I was working. That was my reminder to get up, stretch, walk around and not return for at least 10 minutes. That was my 10 hour day.

    Even with that, the years of using the computer and its strain tore into me. Nowadays, being retired, I am on the computer for short periods of time. So, this has helped me so much.

    If you remember nothing I have posted, please remember this. Limit your time on your computer. There is no such thing as a 'good' workstation environment. Time is what makes the difference
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • j.howiejj.howie Brentwood, Ca., USAPosts: 1,730
    Seems to relax me But when I have a flare up and can do nothing physical. I find myself on here for more time than I should be. And my thoracic and cervical area seem to send a sore message... Get off of this thing and do something else! Computers have never been my thing. So if I'm feeling good it's more likely that I'm doing something else. At any rate I try to limit myself to 1 hr. a day. And being "computer challenged" and slow. I just can't get too much done on a computer in 1 hr.
    Click my name to see my Medical history
    You get what you get, not what you deserve......I stole that from Susan (rip)
    Today is yours to embrace........ for tomorrow, who knows what might be starring you in the face!
  • for many years while my children were young was as a medical transcriptionist. In order to make a reasonable paycheck, especially when I worked at home as an independent contractor, I was on the computer typing over 8 hours a day. I've had carpal tunnel release surgery, both ulnar nerves transposed and a cervical fusion.

    You're so right Ron, no matter the ergonomic setup, damage was done.

  • Ron I have always wondered how much damage computers are doing both to our physical health and our eyes. Must admit that both hubby and I are on this contraption way too much but I am going to take your words of caution to heart.
  • Most of this is about posture and as Ron said, not to exacerbation or even create a condition that was not inherent previously, that is not to do any activity or posture for too long, and it will be interesting to see the next generation and how impacted computer usage reflects or impact on them. Even with good ergonomics continuing past what is reasonable will have implications for our future health, it is sometime once the conditions have arrived that we are more aware of our responsibility so this is a timely warning.

    Although I use computers for my work I do balance that actual seated time and include that range of movement to minimise any potential health issue.

    My three teenagers, I do try !

    Thanks Ron..

  • Always good to give this topic a refresh.
    My physio told me that every patient they have has a neck problem, and that laptops are worse than a desk PC because of the close-coupled keyboard, and the angles that they are used in.
    Makes you wonder how large will be the incidence of work related injury attributable to computers, now that they are everywhere.
    When applying for unemployment benefits, I would often ask the officers how they were coping with their full time PC use.
    They all complained of severe pain from it.
    So I'd then tell them they'd finish up like me-unable to work again.
    Paid my benefits immediately every time.
  • The Sit/Stand workstations are popular where I work. We have a proper ergo dept that has their own lab with test stations. So we can try different things before changing our office around.

    Stand up workstations for lumbar sufferers appears to offer very limited relief. I've been told 20%. I've opted for a zero gravity chair. The one I have is cheap in cost. It really looks like a deck or pool chair and costs maybe $100. They are tough to get used too. Require a modified board/pad to hold your keyboard and mouse. The relief for lumbar sufferers is significantly better than stand up stations.

    I also use an exercise ball. Large ones can be sat on for an hour or so. The ball takes some of the compression load out of your lumbar spine. The trick is to use your core to stabilize yourself. So it creates a positive effect. Most people can't use them for long periods of time because they don't control their core. So you build up to it.

    Ultimately the best answer is to get up every hour and go walk around and light stretch for 5-10 minutes. Most peoples jobs don't really support that notion well. Many just forget to get up and do it. The easiest solution is unfortunately not the most popular with employers.

    There is no mystery that sitting in front of a computer all day causes problems. You are stagnant yet your body was designed to move. You are creating repetitive stress but your body wasn't designed for that.

  • I agree with you completely. At my most recent job, I would several brief (5 minute) walking breaks throughout the day, upon the advice of doctors and physical therapists.

    The problem was that my supervisor translated these breaks to mean that I was 100% complete with 100% of my work. Therefore, when I got back to my desk, more work would be waiting on top of the work I had yet to complete.

    My question is that since I will more than likely return to work @ a job involving extensive computer usage. How do I avoid the same problem that happened with my prior supervisor?

    When you are hired to do a job involving extensive computer usage, how do you minimize putting your body behind the eight ball?
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,832
    My initial response would be to let your employer know exactly about your medical situation. The things you can and can not do. Being upfront and honest is the best approach.

    But at the same time, people may take that as you are looking for ways to not perform all the jobs and do them at the pace they want.

    What is most important is that you never allow the situation in which your job demands compromise your health situation. If you allow your health situation to sacrifice because of what the "Job" wants, that will only lead to problems, your medical problems.

    Here is a problem and a solution. Your new job wants you to do "X" amount of work in "Y" amount of time. For many, that can be done with overtime, long hours at the job, etc.

    However, that is not realistic and potentially dangerous for you and many like you. One way to combat that is for you to do the "X" amount of work in "Y-time" and that the "Y" job is perfect.

    So that may mean putting in extra hours at home on your personal time, but also time you can medically handle it. Then just deliver the best package they have seen.

    That might be one big step in having your new employer think very highly of you and also understand your medical situation.

    Julie, good luck
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
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