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Everyday we come across media splashing news about risks and hazards related to computer users. Be it the newspaper, television, or the Internet, all talk about security hassles, computer hackers, stalkers and even spammers. So we get the best firewalls, security systems, anti-spam software, etc. to protect ourselves. But are you really safe?

Lot of computer users, especially those who spend hours in front of the computer tend to overlook the minute details which could lead to long-term problems. People on a computer-based nine to five job are most susceptible to these risks. If you suffer from frequent headaches, backache, wrist pain etc., you could be right on the path leading to RSI (Repetitive strain injury).

Health problems caused by spending long hours in front of the computers are not exactly noticeable and are hence ignored. The most common problems associated with excessive computer use are headaches, eye strain, back pain, wrist pain, muscle fatigue, etc. Keyboard operators can suffer from fatigue, soreness, or cramps in hands, arms, shoulders or back, which can lead to chronic disorders of muscles and tendons. On a more serious note, we have disorders such as repetitive stress injury, which include tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Repetitive stress injury is a kind of musculoskeletal disorder of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and joints.

Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon due to some repeated motion or stress on that tendon.
Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is inflammation of the nerve that connects the forearm to the palm of the wrist.

Though there is no substantial medical evidence to prove that the radiation emitted from computer monitors or VDUs cause any risk such as facial dermatitis, epilepsy, miscarriages or any other birth defect, still computers users need to be careful.

Working risk-free is quite simple. Simple precautions can save a lot of trouble. Firstly make sure that the workplace is designed ergonomically, which basically means that you need to incorporate comfort, efficiency, and safety into the design of items in the workplace.

The monitor should be placed at eye level, approximately an arm's length away from the eyes. Pay attention to the lighting in the room and avoid any possible glares on your screen. Correctly adjust the brightness, contrast, positioning, height, and width of images on your screen. Most CRT monitors today also adhere to the MPR II standard, which defines acceptable levels of electromagnetic radiation.

Keyboard operators should try to use keyboards with built-in wrist rests. Adjust your keyboard to get a good keying position. Try to keep your wrists straight when keying.

Intensive use of a mouse or trackball may lead to aches and pains in the fingers, hands, wrists or arms. Position the mouse within easy reach, so it can be used with the straight wrist. Support your forearm on the desk.

A document holder may help you avoid unnecessary awkward neck and eye movements.

Due to general workload and tight deadlines, computer users tend to continue working in an awkward position. It is very important to pay attention to your sitting posture. Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods. Place the keyboard, mouse and other items, so that you are comfortable. Leave enough leg space to move freely.

Staring too much at the monitor can cause Computer Vision Syndrome. Users might find it difficult to properly focus on an object when they suddenly look away from the computer. Hence, whenever possible, try to arrange your focus on and away from the screen. This will not only help in preventing fatigue, but it is essential to vary visual and mental demands.

It is quite essential to take breaks. Once in every 60 minutes, take a break to stand up, walk around, and stretch. You can set up an alarm in your Outlook or Scheduler application, in case you tend to get too involved in your work and lose track of time. If office users aren't allowed to take breaks, then they can try to do some other paperwork, such as photocopying, filing, etc.

These are very simple precautions, which need to be taken, to avoid unnecessary discomfort. Unfortunately, no software available in the market can help you with this. This is just something that you must not evade and have to do, to be free from any possible health risk.