Computers and internet access improve work efficiency and productivity. There is an increasing number of school children using laptops too.
The weekly mean time for computer use increased from 5.9 hours in 1997 to 14.6 hours in 2003.1
Imagine the average Australian’s weekly hours of computer work in 2016…?! As a part-time researcher, most of my time is glued to the computer. There have been times when I work at the computer, I lose hunger and my mind gets lost in the computerised PDF before I know it, it is 4 am! excessive computer use has been linked to musculoskeletal pain and headaches as the main complaints and I feel it!
According to the World Health Organization, Musculoskeletal disorders of the work-related causes is defined as:
Injuries in muscles, tendons, peripheral nerves, and vascular vessels, possibly caused by, precedent to, or worsened by repetitive or continuous use of a certain body part.2
How do long hours of computer work cause musculoskeletal disorders?
When working on a computer, over time the eyes drift closer to the monitor, which is located below eye level. The head moves forward causing the upper portion of the neck to hyperextend and the lower portion of the neck to flex forward. To counterbalance the weight of the head moving forward relative to the torso, the upper back hunches (thoracic kyphosis), resulting in ‘upper cross syndrome’.
Furthermore, studies have reported that severe neck pain such as sufferers of whiplash was associated with decreased balance3 and reduced sense in joints4. These result in abnormal proprioception, which are specialised receptors that sense position and motion in muscles, tendons, joint, and the inner ear and relay information to the brain. Thus, overall posture imbalance.
A study published in the Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine studied the effects of prolonged computer work and the effects on head posture and balance.1 Sixty participants were divided into two groups: (Group I) participants that work over 6 hours per day and (Group II) participants who rarely work with computers.
Group I, had an exaggerated forward head posture than Group II when the upper neck angle and the general neck angle was measured.
To test balance, the participants maintained a standing posture for 20 seconds under 6 conditions:
- Fixed force platform and a fixed screen, with open eyes
- Fixed force platform and a fixed screen, with closed eyes
- Fixed force platform and a moving screen, with open eyes
- Swaying force platform and a moving screen, with open eyes
- Swaying force platform and a fixed screen, with closed eyes
- Swaying force platform and a moving screen with open eyes.
Group I reported more sway from the center of gravity than Group II.
The results of this study suggest that forward head postures during computer-based work may contribute to some disturbance in the balance of healthy adults.1
These findings represent the need for health promotion and awareness for correct computer work postures, especially in this computerised-dominant world. Whether you are a neck pain sufferer or not, get your posture checked by a health practitioner to ensure balance.
Balance is not just important for the daily life of movement, but more so for sports enthusiast and athletes.
1.Kang JH, Park RY, Lee SJ, Kim JY, Yoon SR, Jung KI. (2012). The effect of the forward head posture on postural balance in long time computer based worker. Ann Rehabil Med,36(1):98-104.
2.Kim DQ, Cho SH, Han TR, Kwon HJ, Ha M, Paik NJ. (1998). The effect of VDT work on work-related musculoskeletal disorder. Korean J Occup Environ Med,10:524–533.
3.Chester JB., Jr (1991). Whiplash, postural control and the inner ear. Spine,16:716–720
4.Barrett DS, Cobb AG, Bentley G. (1991). Joint proprioception in normal, osteoarthritic and replaced knees. J Bone Joint Surg Br,73:53–56.