By Michael Dorausch, D.C.
According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, repetitive motion injuries and stiff and aching muscles are being seen more in children. This is reportedly a result of spending too much time at computers and using chairs, desks and other equipment that is not properly adjusted for their use.
Some researchers believe that this is a huge problem and that we are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg. According to Benjamin Amick of the University of Texas School of Public Health, these kids may not be developing full-fledged musculoskeletal injuries, but they’re already developing the symptoms related to such injuries.
Research on younger children such as those in elementary and middle school is just beginning to come in. Researchers would like to see more evidence before stating that repetitive motion injuries are resulting in young kids.
But one study has found that more than 40 percent of six and seventh graders complained of musculoskeletal pain after working on a computer. Kids are often seen hunched over computers displaying improper posture and using improper techniques.
It was found that kids who used furniture designed for computer use were less likely to have problems. Also, kids who practiced typing skills such as “touch typing”, a technique that allows people to type without looking at the keyboard, were also less likely to have problems. Some schools still have children using folding chairs and working at folding tables for computer use rather than using economically correct equipment.
Computer lab teachers emphasize proper economics, you want to know how to place your head, and how to place your hands on the keyboard.
The study that found that from 10 to 20 percent of college students had shown symptoms of musculoskeletal injuries after an hour of working on the computer also found that students often spend far longer than one hour in front of their computers.
Researchers have found that the highest risk comes after four hours of computer use or more. One researcher used the term “binge computing” to describe six or more hours at a computer without a break. Some researchers feel this is an emerging problem in college kids.
Interestingly, researchers also found that people who engage in some form of athletics are at less risk although researchers are not sure why.
According to the research findings, 85 percent of students positioned their wrists up or down when typing. Keeping wrists in a neutral position is a safeguard against repetitive strains of the wrists and elbow. Ninety two percent of students reportedly had the keyboard improperly positioned, and 45 percent had the monitor improperly positioned.
Something I have found of particular concern is the mouse (or trackball). In my experience I have found it may be beneficial to purchase more than one type of pointing device, such as a 3 button mouse, and a two-button trackball. Switch between using the mouse and trackball every other month or so. This helps to prevent the same repetitive movements month after month. Fortunately most operating systems will recognize a new mouse install on boot up.
Also, for those active “cut and paste” typists, I recommend the Microsoft Office Keyboard. It has built in Cut, Copy, and Paste buttons, a left sided scroll bar, as well as several programmable keys.
Above all, in my experience I have found it is most important to be comfortable. Get up and take breaks regularly, and don’t forget to get adjusted. Spinal stress on top of uncorrected subluxation patterns is a no-no.
YourHealthDaily: Keyed to Ergonomics: Awareness of Kids’ Injuries from Computer Use Grows
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