Health advisory: neck and shoulder pain

Subject: Health advisory: neck and shoulder pain
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Mon, 3 Jul 1995 08:30:16 LCL

Do you ever have neck or shoulder pain at the end of your working day?
(Optional: Do you wear bifocals?) The problem may be the location of
your monitor. For looking at things close up, you have to look through
the bottom lens of your bifocals, and since the monitor is above this
level, you're required to tilt your head upwards to look. Even if you
don't wear bifocals, most of us set the tops of our monitors too high,
especially with large monitors, causing a similar problem. Voila! Neck
or shoulder strain (or both).

The simple solution is to move the top of the monitor below eye level,
perhaps as low as the top of a conventional desk. The actual amount of
lowering depends on just where the cutoff point for your bifocals lies
and how comfortable your neck feels in various positions while
watching the screen. (You'll have to pay attention to this... after
getting comfortable with a setup, it's easy to ignore the strain that
builds up by the end of the day.)

This information comes from Publish (Page 23, July 1995), where they
include a good diagram of the solution. If you can't afford a special
ergonomic desk, here are two alternatives:
1. Take the monitor off your system unit (the "box"), which should
lower the top of the display by 3 or more inches. This may solve the
problem immediately.
2. Put the monitor on a typist's "runoff" desk, one of those desk
extensions that sits about 6 inches lower than a traditional desktop.
(Many offices have these sitting somewhere in a warehouse because no
one uses typewriters anymore; if so, you can get one "real cheap".)
Note: Don't forget to retilt the monitor so it's perpendicular to your
line of sight. Otherwise, you'll get a slightly distorted image
(called "keystone distortion") that may be annoying or fatiguing over

One note related to this: If possible, set your monitor at least arm's
length from your face. This minimizes any health effects that may
occur due to electromagnetic radiation from older monitors. (The
jury's still out on this issue, but I've seen good basic biological
research that suggests using caution.) In almost any program, you can
bump type size up to 12 or 14 point to compensate for the greater
distance, and this will also reduce eye fatigue.

And one note of caution: Cheap, older monitors (not the new "reduced
emission" versions) and some cheap PC clones lack appropriate
shielding, and the magnetic fields from the sides of the monitor can
affect the interior of the PC. (Unlikely, but the effect is real...
put two monitors side by side to see proof.) Just to be safe, you
should consider _not_ putting the monitor directly _beside_ your hard
drive, or keeping it a foot or so away. Probably nothing will happen,
but you know what they say about "an ounce of prevention".

--Geoff Hart #8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of
our reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.

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