Computer usage is a pain in the neck for more kids

As more and more kids are growing up in front of computer screens, experts are reporting on a rise in neck, back, and shoulder pain among youngsters - especially for those using laptops. Here is what you need to know to protect yourself and your child from serious injuries.

On February 18 health and science news website LiveScience reported on the trend, citing a recent study conducted by researchers at Boston University about laptop use and discomfort levels, published in the journal Ergonomics earlier this month. In the study, more than 50 percent of university students were already experiencing pain from computer usage. One in seven students said they felt pain after working on a computer for just one hour.

The biggest culprit, experts say, is that workstations aren't set up properly, especially for users of laptops. The study's lead author, Karen Jacobs, an occupational therapist at Boston University, suggests using a mouse rather than a laptop track pad, which can put added stress on your hand and wrist. Set up your child's workstation so it's healthy and ergonomic - and teach your child good working body positions (see links below for tips).

Be sure that the mouse rests at elbow height and is positioned next to the keyboard, not sitting far off to the side, and keep your wrists in a neutral position. "Computer monitors are often positioned too low for users, which may bring about a downward eye glaze, an increased neck angle and forward bending of the upper back," reports LiveScience. 

According to research, kids and adults who are physically active report fewer problems with computer-related injuries, said Robin Gillespie, an ergonomist and consultant at RM Gillespie Consulting, in an interview with LiveScience. "There is a trend that shows people who are more physically active will develop fewer musculoskeletal discomfort issues," Gillespie said in the report. "This is true for both adults and kids."

In any case, it's a good idea to get up from the computer and walk around every two to three hours at least (other experts say 10 or 15 minutes if you already suffer injuries).

Be sure to stretch your wrists and neck during the day, or use stretching software programs such as StretchWare or Stretch Break, which prompt users with stretch reminders while offering how-to demonstrations. Stretch Break also offers a version just for kids.

Quick tips on how to sit at your desk: http://www.fitsugar.com/Sitting-101-Desk-Ergonomics-1669975

Is your workspace ergonomic? Here is a checklist of what you need to know: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/etools/computerworkstations/checklist.html

Read Jacobs's blog for more ideas: http://blogs.bu.edu/kjacobs/

Access the LiveScience report: http://www.livescience.com/12925-tech-overload-causing-injuries-youth.html

A guide of recommended stretches you can do right now: http://ergonomics.about.com/od/treatmentprevention/ss/essentstretches.htm

Watch a video with tips on avoiding computer injuries: http://www.howcast.com/videos/180854-How-To-Prevent-Carpal-Tunnel-Syndrome

Find out about stretching software programs and download a free demo:
http://www.paratec.com/
http://www.stretchware.com/

 

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