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Northwest Missouri State University

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ERGONOMICS - The study of the design and arrangement of equipment so that people will interact with the equipment in a healthy, comfortable and efficient manner. As related to computer equipment, ergonomics is concerned with such factors as the physical design of the keyboard, screens and related hardware, and the manner in which people interact with these hardware devices. ~ Free On-line Dictionary of Computing


What are Cumulative Trauma Disorders?

Technology-related Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs) are caused by the repetitive motion required for accomplishing computing tasks. CTDs do not develop overnight, but gradually occur and are only noticeable after weeks, months or even years of work at a computer involving improper use of muscles, tendons, nerves and joints. Common complaints of users who spend long hours at their computers are headache and neck, shoulder, wrist and hand pain.

Lack of motion can also lead to additional aches, pains and stiffness since computer users tend to be immobile for long periods of time.


What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a CTD that occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist. The median nerve controls sensations to the palm side of the thumb and fingers as well as impulses to some small muscles in the hand that allow the fingers and thumb to move.

Approximately 3 to 5 percent of the population has Carpal Tunnel Syndrome due to repetition of motion needed for computing tasks. It causes numbness, tingling, pain and weakness in the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers.


Laptop Computers and CTDs

When laptop computers first were designed, ergonomics* were not taken into account. Laptop computers were designed originally to be short-term travel options and not meant to be the primary computer a user would work at daily. However, today, due to expansion of wireless services and the greater desirability for the convenience of mobile computing, laptop computers are becoming the primary computer for many users. Laptop computers are extremely popular on university campuses around the country and the potential for users to develop aches, pains and ultimately a CTD is much higher due to the notebook computer's smaller size and portability.


Ways to Prevent CTDs

Laptop computer users should take various preventative measures, including:

Preventative Exercises

Early detection and prevention cannot be stressed enough. Complete recovery from a CTD is common when the injury is treated promptly and preventative measures are put in place and practiced. Stretching exercises should be performed at least every hour, including:

Besides stretching exercises, relaxation is important to good physical and mental health. This is relaxation time away from the television or game console, which while fun are not mentally relaxing. Take a brief walk indoors or outdoors, preferably somewhere quiet and where you are not required to talk, just breathe! You can also practice Yoga or meditation or have a friend (or professional masseuse) perform a 15-minute relaxation massage.


What is Computer Vision Syndrome?

As defined by the American Optometric Association, Computer Vision Syndrome is the "complex of eye and vision problems related to near work", which are experienced during or related to computer use. Staring at a computer screen for long periods of time can cause fatigue, eyestrain, headaches, increased sensitivity to light, double or blurred vision, difficulty shifting focus between the computer monitor and paper documents and other vision problems. Eye problems also can result from sitting too close to your monitor, working too long without resting your eyes, not blinking frequently enough, inadequate lighting, too much lighting and poor contrast or refresh rate on a computer screen.


Ways to Prevent CVS

Whenever possible, do the following to prevent potential vision problems:

Important Phone Numbers

Questions about computing CTD prevention, contact the Information Technology - Client Computing Office at 660-562-1634.

Think you may be developing a CTD, contact the University Wellness Center at 660-562-1348.

Other Online Ergonomic/Health Resources