Musculoskeletal problems on prolonged use of computers

Working for long hours on computer has become part and parcel of life for many individuals due to work.

The same applies to many people irrespective of age from children at 3 years to old aged individuals at 60 years and above for entertainment, to watch videos, play games, etc., that can be safely termed as internet addiction.

It is reported that the number of people suffering with musculoskeletal problems due to the use of computers for long duration has increased by 25% over the last 10 years and counting.

Prolonged use of computers can affect muscles, ligaments, bones, etc. due to the effect of position in which one may sit, use of hands, fingers, etc.

Most common parts of body, that are affected are

  1. Lower back
  2. Neck
  3. Shoulder
  4. Wrist/hand and fingers

The most common symptoms are

  1. Headache
  2. Neck pain
  3. Back ache
  4. Hand/wrist pain
  5. Eye strain
  6. Sleep disturbances

The factors, that play a major role are bad and uncomfortable position while working or using computer

  • prolonged use without breaks (this is done often due to the focus and concentration that makes one ignore moving around and taking breaks)
  • uncomfortable sitting position
  • inappropriate wrist position while typing and using the mouse
  • bad lightening around and screen brightness, etc

The following are the effects of prolonged use of computers

  • Lower back ache – Prolonged sitting, using computer in the same position for long duration can cause contraction of muscles, increased tension over tendons and ligaments, pressure on the intervertebral discs (between the bone segments of spine). It can also be due to lack of proper back support, sitting on hard surface, incorrect inclination of the computer screen, etc.
  • Neck and shoulder pain – In addition to the contraction, tension over muscles, ligaments, it can be due most commonly due to repetitive movements of arms, placement of computer screen above or below the eye level, placement of mouse and keyboard far away or too close to the body and mental stress, etc.
  • Tension neck syndrome is characterized by pain, tenderness of neck on pressing the neck and with neck movements.
  • Shoulder tendonitis (more common on right side due to use of mouse with right hand) causes pain, tenderness of shoulder causing difficulty and restriction of movements at shoulder such as raising shoulder, lifting weights, etc.
  • Wrist tendonitis with deQuervains syndrome is not very common but usually associated with uncomfortable placement of keyboard and repetitive typing. One may experience pain, swelling at the base of thumb (thumb side of wrist), difficulty in movements of thumb, etc.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome is also not very common and occurs due to the pressure on nerve in wrist causing pain, tingling sensation, pins and needles sensation, weakness at wrist, palm, thumb finger, forefinger, middle finger, ring finger, etc.

Please watch this space for prevention of musculoskeletal problems that result from prolonged use of computers.


Dr. Divya Teja



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