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Computer Survival Tips

Meir Schneider

A major occupational hazard of office work, computer vision syndrome (CVS) afflicts some 17 million Americans. CVS sufferers get near-sighted, and existing near-sighted gets worse. Symptoms include eyestrain, fatigue, headache, neck and shoulder pain, dry eyes, and difficulties in focusing.

In CVS, the ciliary, a small muscle in the eye that adjusts the shape of the lens of near vision, undergoes chronic strain as it tries to focus on the fuzzy, flickering pixels of the computer screen. At the computer, we tend to ignore the periphery until it shrinks, and our central vision becomes strained. We sit at the computer with hunched, rounded shoulders and a forward head. Many bifocal wearers tilt the head upward to aim the bifocal inserts at the screen. Often, ergonomics are terrible. Worst of all, we suppress the pain of hours of eyestrain and bad posture.

To stay alive and well at the computer, every hour, take a five-minute break for these exercise:

Palming: Sit comfortably with elbows supported, warm your hands by rubbing them together, lightly cover your eyes with them, breathe deeply and visualise blackness-an ocean at night, a black object moving on a black background, a dark cave, etc.

Flexible Focusing: Walk over to the window, breathe deeply, and stretch. Spend a few minutes looking into the far distance; notice how restful it feels. Then let your eyes sweep back to nearby objects, then back into the distance again.

Wiggles and Circles: See how many ways you can wiggle and undulate your back. Make a few big, smooth circles with each arm, imagining that your fingertips are leading the motion. Rotate your arm, forearms and hands in both directions.

While working at the computer, try to remember to blink. Waggle your hands at both sides of your face to stimulate peripheral vision; then keep that awareness as you work. Change positions in your chair often.