|You are in: Health|
Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 21:48 GMT
Health threat from computer use
Long haul air travel is not the only activity to pose a risk of developing potentially deadly blood clots - sitting at your computer for too long may also put you at risk.
The European Respiratory Journal reports the case of a young man from New Zealand who nearly died after developing deep vein thrombosis following long periods of physical inactivity in front of his computer.
He developed a massive blood clot that formed in his leg veins, broke off and travelled to his lungs.
Although the controversy about long-haul air travel has recently put DVT in the headlines, the condition was first described in people sitting on deckchairs in air raid shelters during the Blitz in London.
Researchers, led by Dr Richard Beasley, of the Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, warn the widespread use of computers in so many aspects of modern life may put many people at risk of developing DVT.
Dr Beasley said: "It may be similar to the situation with the risk of blood clots with long distance air travel - it was not until there was publicity with individual cases that the real extent of the problem was recognised."
The researchers say anybody who uses a computer for prolonged periods should undertake frequent leg and foot exercises, and take regular breaks away from the screen.
What is never mentioned is exactly how long you would need to remain still and how still for this to be a risk. I am a very heavy computer user but I find it impossible to keep particularly still as naturally your legs start to hurt if you remain still for prolonged periods not to mention the need to relieve yourself and make drinks.
I've learned I have to change positions throughout the day. I don't always sit when using the computer. This is a lot of the reason why I purchased a laptop recently. It allows me to get out and still be able to do my work when I get a brain storm. Much much better. Stretching and several hours of yoga a day have helped also.
But I have to say, I'm going to find that tea-time program (see Stu Carter, below) I really want to install that, that would be great. Especially since tea is such a great relaxer and a way to wander around for a few minutes doing something else. (Not to mention, if you drink enough tea, then you'll get those regular breaks to the powder room in addition to the tea breaks...)
Of course sitting in front of a computer all day is bad. The human body isn't designed for that. I sit in my office along with women several years younger than me and up to thirty years older than me, and we're all doing the same thing - sitting on identical chairs in front of identical screens, for eight hours a day. Surely that can't be good. I recently went part-time in the office to take up a very physically active alternative job and I feel a million times better for it.
I spend up to 9 hours a day in front of my computer. I often have a deep ache behind both knees and the same pain wakes me up at night. Another problem I have is a prolapsed disc and if I don't get up and walk every other hour I experience a lot of discomfort. It really helps to get up every now and then and have a walk, even if it is a short one!
I spend a good ten hours a day at work in front of computer. I also spend another three or four at home some nights. Difference is not only do I move around and get up a great deal, I also exercise six times a week.
If your entire lifestyle is sedentary, then I am sure DVT is a serious risk. The key, I think, as to other risks of modern living is activity. Cardiovascular exercise not only lowers the blood pressure, but reduces the risk of clots building up in the first place.
Stu Carter, UK
I am a computer student in my final year, and because of my course I am required to spend quite a lot of time behind a computer screen, I also am on a work experience year and so working in an office environment. One thing I have notice from all this computer use is my eyes, they have been getting worse over the years and now I believe that I need glasses. I am well aware of the dangers of prolonged computer use since I was taught at high school and so take precautions like walking around the office and other such activities, but I am surprised to the lack of information available in the workplace.
After starting to get pain in my arm, which I thought was the beginnings of RSI, I changed from a mouse to a tracker ball and paid attention to my posture. This seems to have worked. I also have a chair with a 'waterfall' front - it curves down rather than having an edge to the seat so it doesn't dig into my thighs. And I make sure to take a few minutes break every hour to stretch and relax.
Paul Madley, UK
Whilst I am aware it's not healthy, in a small and busy office it is not always easy to take breaks. This is not something that is limited by management but purely the restrictions and pressures that we put upon ourselves to reach targets and workloads. Maybe in time we will have a small exercise machine that will fit under our desk and enable us to exercise our legs whilst working.
Thankfully a large proportion of PC software is so unreliable I get ample exercise banging my head on the keyboard, kicking the desk, waving my arms in frustration etc.
Andrew Logie, England
I was already concerned about my eyes, now this. Anyway I've decided to take up smoking to force myself to take regular breaks. Also a proper pub lunch with a couple of pints instead of the sandwich in front of the screen. This should improve my health no end.
I have a small alarm clock that is very quick to program. Every one and a half hours, it goes off and I go for a quick stretch and drink.
I have been working with computers for over 20 years, and have always made a point of leaving my desk for 10 minutes in every hour, for my circulation and eyesight. The only persistent obstacle to this has been employers who see this as time-wasting and skiving. There is plenty of law supporting my behaviour in this regard, but directing my employer to the relevant points of law usually only gets me labelled a trouble-maker.
It's not a health threat from "computer use": it's a health threat from sitting down too long! In any situation where you have to sit for ages it is advisable to stand up and stretch your legs regularly. Whether this be at an office-desk, in an airliner, working with a computer, or driving a car a long distance. Computer workstations should have carefully arranged ergonomics: the monitor should be slightly below eye-level, and the seat should have an adjustable height amongst other things.
Stuart, UK ex-pat in USA
I have had DVT in the past, and always insist on business class when my company send me on a long-haul flight. Does this now mean that I should have a larger chair and free champagne in my office as well?
I work more than 8 hours a day on a computer. With me, the problem is with my sitting posture I believe. I developed pain in my shoulders [trapezes] and the back of the neck, Doctor suspects of spinal cord cartilage disks dislocation. Diagnosis: Spinal x-rays can show narrowing of the disk space, but computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans more clearly identify the problem. Treatment: Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs usually help relieve pain. Exercises are often recommended to reduce muscle spasms and pain and to hasten recovery, but surgery may be required if pain and signs of nerve damage are severe and progressive.
Dennis McDermott, England
I spend many hours a day in front of the computer. The best I can recommend is fidgeting! Tap your toes, stretch your legs out and roll your shoulders. It stops you getting too stiff. But it may annoy your colleagues!
Yesterday I spent four and a quarter hours looking at my screen without standing up at all. But I wouldn't spend as much time in front of my computer if the BBC website wasn't so good! From now on, I shall get up and walk around when I need a break from work and become ignorant of current affairs in the process.
I work in IT as a web developer. After 6 years of 7 hour days sat in front of a PC, I have developed problem's in my neck and shoulders - I think it is especially important for desk workers to get out and do something active.
Maggi Lilienfeld, UK
I spend all day at my computer. I gave up smoking three months ago so now I spend virtually all day here - unlike when I was a smoker and taking a five minute 'break' every hour.
I found I was sitting at my desk for too long, so I made a high level computer desk that forces me to stand up when doing email and surfing the web. It gets a bit tiring getting up from the desk every time I want to go online, but at least I won't drop dead from DVT.
I normally spend up to six hours a day on the computer. Thank you BBC for saving my life.
I spend seven hours 45 minutes a day in front of my computer. I've heard that experts recommend you look away from your monitor and get away from your desk and walk every so often. In my job (sales) this in not feasible due to the pressure we are under and the targets we must hit to earn a living. Our employers certainly provide no guidelines as to what would be most healthy. I have lower back pain and am anxious about my employer's lack of concern for their employees' wellbeing, but I believe that this is the case for most people who work in call centres.
Being an IT student, this time of the year means long hours at the computer for weeks on end - roughly 12-15 hrs per day!
19 Nov 02 | Health
08 Aug 02 | Health
27 Jul 02 | Health
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Top Health stories now:
Links to more Health stories are at the foot of the page.
|E-mail this story to a friend|
Links to more Health stories
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>> | To BBC World Service>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy