Have you ever felt sore shoulders, fatigue in your back muscles, or an aching neck after spending a few hours surfing the web or at the end of your work day? Students often ask me how they should align themselves at their computer to relieve pain. Iâ€™m going to give you some tips here to help you reduce pain and get more comfortable when using a computer at your job or at home.
Because we use computers so much today, many people experience Repetitive Strain Injuries (like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome) from doing a repetitive motion, like using a mouse. Problems can also result from holding a static position with tension for long periods of time.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) can result when there is a narrowing of the carpal tunnel due to position or other conditions such as fluid retention or arthritis. The median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel (a â€œtunnelâ€ that passes between ligaments and the carpal bones in the hand) and can be compressed when the tunnel narrows. Certain positions, such as cocking the wrists up in typing, can also narrow the carpal tunnel.
Posture can play a big role here. Sitting in a slumped position with the head and shoulders forward can compress nerves that travel to the arm, shoulder and chest, leading to numbness, pain and restriction of movement, and even nerve damage.
Timothy McCall, MD, in Yoga as Medicine, says â€œMedical textbooks mention that posture can play a role in CTS, but in my experience, physicians rarely address the issue in clinical practice.â€
Of course, posture is not a big area of focus for physicians, so youâ€™ll need to look elsewhere to find help in this area. But if you have muscle weakness in your hands, you might want to get looked at by a physician to make sure you donâ€™t develop permanent damage from nerve compression.
The Balance Method of postural alignment can help you align your spine in a more healthy position, so that you can minimize any potential wrist problems (not to mention back and neck problems, and much more!).
Here are some tips to help you keep your wrists healthy:
1. Sit on Your Sitz Bones
You may be getting tired of me saying this, but you have to sit on your sitz bones in order to have any kind of healthy alignment in shoulders and neck. Sitting with the pelvis tucked collapses your spine and makes your head and shoulders round forward. Now, the other extreme is also a problem – that is, tightening your back and lifting your chest up as if you are trying to â€œsit up straight.â€ This strains your back muscles, and eventually youâ€™ll get tired and collapse back into a rounded shape.
So, sitting on a wedge can help if you are sitting forward on a chair, like when typing. When you sit forward, youâ€™re not resting on the back of the chair, and so the position of your pelvis is essential to creating a healthy spine position.
2. Relax and Elongate your Spine When Sitting
Think of making your spine a column above your pelvis â€“ neither arching it forward or rounding it back. Relax your back and let your front ribs release downward. This gives space to your back and helps elongate your spine.
3. Donâ€™t Hunch Your Shoulders Forward
If you have aligned your pelvis well as mentioned above, youâ€™re off to a good start. Now, without lifting your chest, you can do a shoulder roll with each shoulder to stretch and realign them. Relax your right arm down. Take your shoulder slightly up, then back, then down, drawing your shoulder blade down your back. Repeat with the left shoulder. Now relax, rather than â€œholdingâ€ your shoulders back in a forced position.
4. Find a Healthy Wrist Position
Place your elbows directly under your shoulders and place your forearms so they are parallel to the ground when typing on the keyboard. Your wrists should be straight, rather than cocked up (with the knuckles higher than the wrists).
5. Use Your Fingers Wisely
When typing, let the weight of your hands fall into your fingers, rather than resting your wrists on the computer. Keep your wrists straight as above, and let the tips of your fingers hit the keys rather than the pads of your fingers.
Pay attention to your alignment when working at a computer or doing other activities that require you to use your hands a lot. This, combined with some regular stretching (Iâ€™ll go over this in a future article), can help you prevent or reverse common wrist problems.
If you need some extra guidance to help you find a healthy sitting position or would like to learn some good stretches for your arms, shoulders and back, come to my workshop on Yoga for Healthy Shoulders & Wrists on Tuesday, September 28 from 7-8:30 pm. For more information, visit http://www.sonomabodybalance.com/html/workshops.html.
Â© 2010, Dana K. Davis, MA