Even before many of us began working from home, chances are, you used the computer too much. Now, with our work and much of our social life centered around our computer screens, it’s all too easy to find ourselves figuratively glued to the screen more than we would like.

Besides the mental effects that constant computer use can exacerbate are physical ones as well. Extended computer use has been linked to problems like eye strain and pain. While no long-term effects have been linked to computer usage, short-term effects include:

    • Blurred Vision
    • Headaches
    • Neck Pain
    • Back Pain

Fortunately, there are some ways you can mitigate these problems, even when you’re required to use the computer constantly.

Ensure Your Monitor is at the Correct Level
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, the best position for your monitor is likely just below center, about 40-74 centimeters away from your eyes. If your computer is at the wrong angle, you may be putting your neck and shoulders at risk for pain. Consider lining the top of your screen to eye level, positioning the center of the screen just below.

Try Some Neck Exercises to Alleviate Pain
UC Santa Cruz’s Environmental Health and Safety group suggest using the following exercise if you begin to experience a twinge of shoulder or neck pain. Shrug your shoulders upwards towards your ears and hold for 3-5 seconds, and then release. They recommend stretching this way a couple times to keep yourself feeling comfortable and pain-free while working on your computer.

Change Your Monitor’s Brightness
Another educational institute, the University of Maine, suggests that students and other people using computers frequently adjust their monitor’s brightness to match the surrounding environment. If you work in a bright space, increase your display lighting to match the surroundings. Likewise, if you prefer working in a shadier site, lower the brightness.

Follow the 20-20-20 Rule
The 20-20-20 rule is one of the simplest ways to help reduce eye strain. Every 20 minutes that you are working, take a quick “eye” break from the computer. Focus on an object that is at least 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds. That’s it! Repeating this process every 20 minutes can help prevent your eyes from experiencing strain and other discomfort.

The most important thing to keep in mind regarding computer usage is that moderation and breaks are key. Any repetitive motion (which includes using your eye muscles), can lead to irritation and pain. Try brainstorming projects away from the computer when possible or using phone calls rather than video calls if you’re able to.
Limiting the amount of computer time can help mitigate symptoms, as well as following the tips listed above. If you find you are continually having eye issues, it is always worth a trip to the optometrist to determine if a more serious eye issue is to blame. Visiting the eye doctor every few years is recommended for adults.