Musculoskeletal Disorders in IT Workers

Musculoskeletal Disorders in IT Workers


Musculoskeletal disorders are defined as the illnesses and injuries that affect one or more parts of he musculoskeletal system. These basically include injuries and disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal disc.

The musculoskeletal disorders in IT workers generally encompass the following:

Upper limb disorders such as RSIs Back and neck pan and discomfort Tension stress headaches and related ailments

Incidence and Trends

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the most common occupational illness in Great Britain, affecting close to 1.0 million every year. These include problems such as low back pain, joint injuries and repetitive strain injuries of various kinds.

At least 10-12% of this population is believed to be suffering from computer-related musculoskeletal disorders of various kinds. In addition, computer users in the age group of 18-25 are the most affected, with 70% of them having suffered at some point.

The most common examples include rotator cuff tendonitis, tenosynovitis and tension neck syndrome.

MSDs and IT Workers

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 welling 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 Cramping Throbbing Weakness 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

MSD and Keyboard Usage

Keyboard usage is one of the most prominent causes of musculoskeletal disorders in IT workers.

Excessive keyboard usage amounting up to 100,000 keystrokes per day combined with deviated wrist postures substantially increase the occupational risk factors of MSDs in IT workers.

A conventional keyboard has a built-in slope of about 6 degrees. Research indicates that changing the slope of the keyboard in a downward direction can actually change the wrist extension angle, without impairing typing speed and accuracy.

In another study, the incidence of MSDs was compared amongst two groups of computer users, with one of them having a high usage of the keyboard, while the other having a relatively lower or no keyboard usage. The group with the higher keyboard usage reflected up to 45% of MSDs as against a low ratio of 4.5% to 17% in the other group.

Preventive Measures

Musculoskeletal disorders can be quite easily prevented using certain simple measures. Experts indicate that these musculoskeletal disorders respond much better to preventive measures than they do to various treatment modalities.

Here we list some of the most effective preventive measures.

Take regular breaks from working at the computer, at least a few minutes every one hour Alternate computer-related tasks with non-computer jobs to avoid strain and relax your body Do regular stretches to relax your body Use a lot of comfort equipment including footrests, wrist/palm rests and document holders Keep the mouse and keyboard at the same level Do not grip your mouse too tightly Practice using the keyboard shortcuts (e.g. Ctrl+S to save and Ctrl+P to print) in order to avoid overusing the mouse

Workstation Measures

The way your workstation is set up can considerably reduce the risk of occurrence of MSDs. Here we list some of the most important guidelines for setting up your workstation.

The monitor of the computer should be adjustable The screen should be at the same level as that of the document holder Your face should be at least 18 to 24 inches away from the screen Keyboard should be detachable and adjustable There should be enough space to rest your wrists Chair height and back should be adjustable