Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) – An Overview of Preventive Methods

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Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) – An Overview of Preventive MethodsMSD’s can range from general aches and pains to more serious problems. Medical practitioners do recommend that all the users who use computers regularly should report signs and symptoms as early as possible to prevent serious injury or permanent damage. The most commonly noticed signs and symptoms of MSD associated with computer use are as follows:

Signs and Symptoms


1) Numbness or a burning sensation in the hand
2) Reduced grip strength in the hand
3) Swelling or stiffness in the joints
4) Pain in wrists, forearms, elbows, neck, or back followed by discomfort
5) Reduced range of motion in the shoulder, neck, or back
6) Dry, itchy, or sore eyes
7) Blurred or double vision
8) Aching or tingling
9) Cramping
10) Loss of color in affected regions
11) Weakness
12) Tension stress headaches and related ailments

These types of problem can be caused by any of the following factors:

1. If the user maintains an unnatural or unhealthy posture while using the computer
2. If the lower back support is inadequate for the user
3. If the user continues to sit in the same position for an extended period of time
4. If the workstation set up is ergonomically poor.

It should be noticed that all these symptoms might not necessarily lead to an MSD. However, if the user experiences any of the above symptoms, he/she should make an evaluation of their working positions as well as the layout of their workstation.

It is always better to take precautions to avoid musculoskeletal disorders than to treat them after you get affected. Some general precautions include:

  • Taking regular breaks from working at your computer – a few minutes at least once an hour
  • Alternating work tasks like mixing computer tasks with non computer tasks alternately to avoid strain
  • Regular stretching to relax your body
  • Using comfort equipment such as footrests, wrist/palm rests, and document holders if required
  • Keeping the mouse and keyboard at the same level
  • Avoiding gripping your mouse too tightly – it is always recommended to hold the mouse lightly and click gently
  • The monitor should possess the following features:

Your monitor should swivel, tilt and elevate – if not use an adjustable stand, books, or blocks to adjust the height
It should be positioned so the top line of the monitor is not higher than your eyes or not lower than 20° below the horizon of your eyes or field of vision
Ensure that it is at the same level and near the document holder if you use one
It should be between 18 to 24 inches away from your face
The keyboard should possess the following features:

It should be detachable and adjustable (with legs to adjust angle)
It should allow your forearms to be parallel to the floor without having to raise your elbows
It should allow your wrists to be in line with your forearms so your wrists need not be flexed up or down
It should include enough space to rest your wrists or should include a padded detachable wrist rest (or you can use a separate gel wrist rest which should be at least 50 mm deep)
It should be placed directly in front of the monitor and at the same height as the mouse, track ball, touch pad, or any other pointing device.
The chair should possess the following features:

It should support the back, and have a vertically adjustable independent back rest that returns to its original position and should have tilt adjustment to support the lower back
It should allow the user to adjust its height to be adjusted from a sitting position
It should be adjusted so the back crease of the knee is slightly higher than the pan of the chair (use a suitable footrest, if required)
It should be supported by a five prong caster base
Ensure that it has removable and adjustable armrests
It should also have a contoured seat with breathable fabric and rounded edges to distribute the weight and should be adjustable to allow the seat pan to tilt forward or back
The table/desk should possess the following features:

Ensure that your table/desk provides ample leg room and is height adjustable (preferably)
It should have enough room to support the computer equipment and space for documents
It should be at least 900 mm deep
It should have rounded and blunt corners and edges,
As discussed earlier, ensure that your workstation is set up correctly. Normally, it includes the monitor, keyboard, mouse, seating, desk, and where appropriate, footrest, wrist rest, and document holder.

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