Digital Health: Episode 1

Technology is an amazing thing. In the last century, tech advancements have changed almost every industry known to man. At gaming and chill we cover the latest and greatest developments in the entertainment industry, but increase has been seen in medical technology, construction, manufacturing, and even in business technology and currency. With all these advancements and the amazing benefits they bring, they can bring about unwanted or often unnoticeable side effects. Digital Health is dedicated to researching health issues and trends that are related to digital technology so that you as individuals can make an educated decision or come to your own conclusions when presented with the full picture and facts. Please note that as a full disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, scientist, nor doctor. I will however be providing information that has been written by specialists in these fields. Any content mentioned will have links to the information we have found so you can recognize that we are not pulling this information out of thin air. 

Let us begin with the topic of Ergonomics. As a computer technician, I have seen all sorts of devices created that are supposed to help with strain caused by extended computer use. Keyboards, Mice, Chairs, Desk... even exercise balls to be used at the desk, but what is ergonomics? Ergonomics according to Webster is 1. an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely or 2. the design characteristics of an object resulting especially from the application of the science of ergonomics. So whenever you see the word “Ergonomic” before a digital device, 9 times out of 10 it will referring to the second definition, however the overall goal of ergonomics is to increase your overall safety and as a result, improved efficiency.

The Center of Disease Control (or CDC) states that: the goal of ergonomics is to reduce stress and eliminate injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of soft tissues e.g., muscles or tendons, awkward posture, and repeated tasks. The injuries and disorders to soft tissues are known as Musculoskeletal Disorders (or MSDs). Some of these include: Carpal Tunnel, Tendinitis, Trigger Finger, Muscle Strain, and Lower Back injuries. So in regards to technology, it's easy to recognize that in the modern age, we spend a lot of times at desks, workstations, sitting in office chairs, and staring at computer monitors while either at work or doing everyday tasks. Believe it or not, there is probably something you are doing ergonomically wrong that you may not even recognize.

However, there is good news! The Occupational Safety and Health Administration also known as OSHA (the reason for all those great workplace safety videos) provides resources for correct posture, item placement, and item use in the workplace HERE. While the technology it displays are greatly outdated, it is important to recognize that the techniques described are helpful for easing the everyday strain. I myself have a standing desk that I find quite easy to use both while gaming and while at work. While many of these steps are very minute and most are just common sense, other ones such as monitor viewing and the angle of one's chair can be quite fascinating.

In addition to these techniques, there are a number of “ergonomic” accessories on the market. While most of them may just be marketing schemes, there are some legitimate devices designed to assist you in relieving overuse. However, it is important to note that there is NO AGREED UPON INDUSTRY STANDARD for ergonomic design. The closest thing we could actually find to well collected ergonomic design research here at Gaming and Chill was by Knoll Workplace Research found here and it is important to note that this is created by a FURNITURE company.

In conclusion, there are many independent studies that claim ergonomic keyboards, mice, and other similar technologies MAY help a small amount with these issues, but there are also a large number of studies that claim the exact opposite. What all studies suggest however is that hardware placement and posture have the most significant influence on causing or relieving unnecessary strain. Our conclusion: Adjust your workstation and chair to OSHA levels. This will help you relieve unnecessary strain and you will be able to work easier and play longer without injury. If you find something that seems to relieve strain such as an ergonomic keyboard or a mouse that you like, feel free to purchase it but remember that it is more about proper posture and positioning more than the technological advancement.

This is the Uncle Sam signing off until next time.