Pain Syndromes and IT Professionals
In the recent years, the incidence of pain syndromes and related disorders has increased manifold amongst the IT professionals.
In the further sections, we have briefly explained the most significant pain syndromes and disorders associated with the use of computers.
Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI)
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is typically a soft-tissue injury characterized by an inflammation of the muscles, nerves or tendons.
The primary warning sign of RSI is a sensation of pain in the upper extremities .i.e. fingers, palms, wrists, forearms and shoulders. The pain could be local or diffuse and may be described as burning, aching or shooting.
RSI can occur in various forms, including:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- DeQuervain’s syndrome
- Intersection syndrome
- Complex regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
- Stenosing tenosynovitis
- Trigger finger/thumb
- Thoracic outlet syndrome
- Cubital tunnel syndrome
The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition involving the median nerve, which is squeezed as it crosses the wrist to enter the hand.
The median nerve arises at the cervical vertebra of the neck and supplies muscles of the forearm. It also supplies muscles that bend the middle finger and the thumb and provides sensations to the surface of the hand.
Repetitive movement of the wrist, such as when working on the computer is known to be the chief causative factor of the carpal tunnel syndrome.
Computer Vision Syndrome
The Computer Vision Syndrome is a complex of eye and vision problems that arise due to regular computer use.
The most prominent symptoms include:
- Dry eyes
- Eye strain
- Blurred vision
- Neck pain
- Altered color perception
- Double vision
Work-related Upper Limb Disorders (WRULDs)
Work-related Upper Limb Disorders (WRULDs) is basically an umbrella term that refers to a variety of work-related injuries to the muscles, nerve, tendons and other soft body tissues. The most effected areas include the hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and spine.
In other words, the WRULDs are the impairments caused to the bodily structures such as muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, nerves, bones and the localized blood circulation system. The WRULDs are also known as sprains and strains, repetitive strain injuries and cumulative trauma disorders.
Musculoskeletal disorders are defined as the illnesses and injuries that affect one or more parts of the musculoskeletal system. These basically include injuries and disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal disc.
MSDs are a very common occurrence amongst computer users. The musculoskeletal disorders that occur in IT workers generally exhibit a certain set of signs and symptoms.
Here we list the most common amongst them.
- Numbness or burning sensation in the hand
- Swelling or stiffness in the joints
- Reduced grip strength in the hand
- Pain and discomfort in wrists, forearms, elbows, neck or back
- Reduced range of motion in the shoulder, neck or back
- Dry, itchy or sore eyes
- Blurred or double vision
- Aching or tingling
- Burning sensation
- Loss of color in affected regions
- Tension stress headaches and related ailments
IT workers can be affected by the musculoskeletal disorders due to any of the below causes:
- If the user maintains an unnatural or unhealthy posture while using the computer
- If the lower back support is inadequate for the user
- If the computer user continues to sit in the same position for an extended period of time
- If the workstation set-up is ergonomically poor
There are a vast series of work-related measures that can prevent the occurrence of pain syndromes in IT professionals. Here we list the most important ones:
- Sit in a comfortable posture. Make sure you do not slouch and your wrists do not bend
- Keep the monitor at eye-level and at a comfortable distance
- Use a proper and ergonomically designed chair, especially if you have to work for longer hours
- Keep the keyboard properly aligned with the height of the chair and the monitor level
- Increase the font sizes on display
- Don’t pound on the keys and use only a light touch
- Take frequent breaks to stretch, walk and relax
- Hold the mouse lightly and don’t grip it
- Always keep your hands and arms warm, as cold muscles and tendons are more vulnerable to suffer from overuse injuries
- Avoid unnecessary computer usage
- Use alternate devices such as those for speech recognition
- Never tuck the telephone between your shoulder and ear