Software to Help Back Pain
People who use computers a lot tend to get pain in the back, neck and shoulders. This can be to do with not taking enough breaks, poor posture (see ‘Back Pain: Are You Sitting Comfortably?’) or problems with how the desk and chair is set up (see ‘Setting Up Your Desk and Chair to Prevent Back Pain’). Sorting out the desk and chair set-up is probably the best start, and then there are a number of computer programs that can help with reminders about breaks and posture.
Break Time RemindersWhen working at a computer, remembering to take a break every hour or two and move around is important for easing or preventing back pain. There are various pieces of free reminder software, either specifically for back pain or just general reminder and calendar programs, which can be downloaded from the internet. These will flash up a reminder on when to have a break and walk around, go outside for a moment, stretch or make a cup of tea. Even just taking a moment to look out of the window or look up at the ceiling, or standing up to take the call every time the phone rings could make a difference. These breaks and changes of position will also help with tiredness, dry eyes, eyestrain and concentration too.
Watching PostureThere are specific programs that look at posture, as well as reminding about break times. Some of the software available uses a webcam and image processing software to check the user’s actual sitting position, and flashes up suggestions on improving this – so reminders should come less often the longer the program is used, as sitting well becomes more of a habit. It can also remind users about taking rests and micro-breaks, or just changing tasks. Video stretching programmes also available with exercises that can be done at the desk, as well as a range of health tips. None of these software packages are free but there are professional and home versions available.
Reminder SoftwareYou can also find reminder software designed to prevent and treat repetitive strain injury (RSI), but which would also be useful for back pain too. This type of software brings up on-screen reminders to encourage users to take breaks and suggests stretching exercises to improve circulation and relax muscles. While it doesn’t use imaging to check posture, it will flash up posture reminders, and will suggest rest-breaks, eye breaks and micro-breaks, based on levels of computer use. It can even track levels of hydration. The software can be bought and downloaded online.
Children and ComputersSoftware designed for children using computers is also available and uses cartoons to help children improve their posture. It helps limit the amount of time that children spend on the computer, suggests breaks, encourages drinking plenty of water, and also may prevent problems with dry eyes.
As a lower-cost alternative, reminder software (see above) won’t react to specific bad postures, but could be set up to say ‘think about your posture’ every half an hour or so in between breaks.