Whether it's for work or play, sitting at your computer for hours on end can lead to a myriad of health issues including neck, wrist, shoulder and back pain. Monitors that tilt and ergonomically designed computer chairs are worthwhile investments. Simple stretches and exercises, however, can offer cost-free results in preventing and relieving joint and muscle problems associated with computer use.
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If you spend hours at a computer, you likely sit in an incorrect forward flexed position, with shoulders slouched, head drooped, spine arched and neck muscles tensed. Sitting in this manner leads to stiff and sore neck muscles. The University of California recommends neck rolls to relieve the problem. Relax your shoulder muscles, exhale and tip your head forward, chin to chest. Inhale and slowly roll your head in a circular motion. Perform five rolls in each direction.
When you pull your hand and wrist back to type on a computer keyboard, your wrist joint continues past its normal straight-line extension. This results in hyperextension and keyboard injuries called repetitive strain injuries, or RSI. According to NetworkScience.org, ergonomics expert Dr. Jonathan Bailin states that most RSIs result from excessive keyboard use. Wrist stretches every 20 to 30 minutes can keep your wrists loose and help prevent injuries. While seated, rest your forearms on your thighs with your wrists hanging off your knees. Ball your hands into loose fists. Keep your arms on your knees, and slowly raise your knuckles toward the ceiling. Hold for two seconds, and then slowly lower your knuckles toward the floor. Repeat 10 times.
Computer users should take a few seconds for a posture break every 20 to 30 minutes. Scan your body to check that your shoulders are relaxed. Slouching, hunching and resting your arms on chair armrests can lead to muscular tension, nerve insult and pain. Dr. Bailin claims that many RSIs result from nerve compression of the shoulders and recommends the arm and shoulder shake exercise. Drop your arms at your sides and relax. Gently shake your arms, hands and shoulders for five to 10 seconds. Perform three to five repetitions.
Long periods of inactivity and improper body mechanics while sitting at your computer can stiffen and weaken muscles, resulting in back pain. Strengthening and stretching exercises can help maintain proper posture and prevent stress on your lower back. Dr. Mitchell Krucoff, author of "Healing Moves," suggests an upper-body stretch. Stand with your arms extended over your head and fingers interlaced. Turn your palms toward the ceiling. While straightening your elbows, attempt to get your arms as close to your ears as possible. Slowly breathe in and out as you stretch your upper body.