Question:I sit at a computer all day working as a copy editor for a small publisher. After three years, I'm starting to get some neck and arm pain that doesn't go away with rest. What can I do to keep this from getting worse?
Answer:You are not alone. It is estimated that on any given day, one-fourth of the computer work force shares similar symptoms. Neck, shoulder, arm, wrist, and hand pain and stiffness are common problems. Numbness, tingling, and weakness may occur if the nerves are pinched.
Studies have been done trying to find solutions to this problem. Changes in the workplace and workstation adjustment top the list. The effects of exercise programs and lifestyle changes are also being studied.
More recently, there's been a shift in research. The focus is now more on changing work style and increasing physical activity. Workers are encouraged to find ways to balance the physical and psychologic stress.
Taking shorter breaks more often to stretch the body and give the mind a rest is advised. Paying attention to the work station and body posture is important.
Meeting with others who have similar computer work may help workers find ways to cope with the high work demands. Adding physical activity such as walking, biking, gardening, and sports has been suggested but not proven yet as an effective way to alter symptoms.
More studies are underway to find single solutions as well as to study the effects of multiple steps taken. The goal is to reduce neck and upper limb symptoms and speed up recovery time.
Behavioral changes seem to work but they do take time to take effect (up to one year or more). Don't give up if something doesn't seem to be working right away.Claire M. Bernaards, et al. The Effectiveness of a Work Style Intervention and a Lifestyle Physical Activity Intervention on the Recovery from Neck and Upper Limb Symptoms in Computer Workers. In Pain. November 2007. Vol. 132. No. I-2. Pp. 142-153.
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