Poor posture of the neck during prolonged use of computers while working in static awkward postures is harmful to the health of an individual and can result in deterioration of the quality of life and/or shortening of one's lifespan. Although this may sound like an overly dramatic claim, extensive clinical and ergonomic consulting experiences by the authors and the findings of biomechanical and medical research will be offered in this paper to substantiate the claim. With essentially the first generation of a computer-based work force coming to age and approaching retirement, the frequency and severity of cervical problems and vascular strokes are being documented to increase throughout the United States at an alarming rate. The occurrences of these medical problems in following generations of computer-based workers may even be worse when one considers that children now are working with computers more intensely and at a much earlier age than their predecessors.
Since the early or mid-nineteen eighties the use of computers has increased dramatically, along with increasing reports of pain from inflamed soft tissues in the neck (cervical spine) and upper shoulders, and compressed cervical nerves with related pain in the arms, wrist and/or hands (radiculopathy). A large growing number of office workers today suffer from headaches, neck pain, and upper shoulder pain that can be associated with prolonged work using computers. Consequently, many office workers live in chronic pain and have had invasive medical procedures, such as surgery, and have experienced permanent impairments and disability. Yet, despite numerous episodes of various types of healthcare treatment typically consisting of massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, physical therapy, medications, injections and/or surgeries, too many office workers are sent back to work to essentially repeat the same activities and engage in behavioral habits that led to their medical problems in the first place.
Prolonged, static postures characterized by sedentary office work are being recognized by industries as a significant risk factor for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). During the 1990's the importance of workstation design and work methods, or ergonomics, on health was brought to the forefront of public attention by the intense efforts of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to establish an ergonomics standard. Although the Ergonomics Standard, passed into law in 2000, was later repealed by the Bush Administration via the historic use of the Congressional Review Act in 2001, the impact of the efforts of OSHA in the field of ergonomics and the focus on the need to improve the work environment and practices has proven to be quite beneficial to many industries today.