As we get older many things start to change. The pages on the calendar whiz by. We seem to have less time even though our kids think we should be on call 24/7. We discover our body is no longer maintenance free. Our eyes teach us a new vocabulary word – bifocals. Watching all pharmaceutical commercials on TV is like taking a crash course called “The Side Effects of Healthy Pessimism.” This constant diet of TV commercials may lead to early onset hypochondria. Maybe we should insist on warning labels for commercials indicating they may constitute a hazard to our mental health. Besides, ignorance is bliss.
A New Computer Virus?
I recently discovered a new malady that comes with age and is similar to acid reflux. The main symptom is seeing your computer monitor when you eyes are closed. Some of the side effects are mental confusion and speaking to your computer more than a few times each day. It’s called pernicious visual indigestion.
A few days ago I started to worry about the numbness I was feeling in my little finger on my left hand. Each day it seemed to get a little more noticeable and was starting to affect the next finger and a slightly larger area of my palm.
The pessimistic, gloom and doom part of my brain started whispering “Numbness in the left arm is a symptom of an impending heat attack.” I’m an older guy so that means I don’t ask for driving directions when I get lost and seeing a doctor only occurs at the emergency room. Besides I now have a GPS device so I don’t NEED driving directions unless I the exit the freeway too soon. My GPS makes me feel more normal when it gets lost.
After three days, no heart attack but my hand was still getting more numb and I noticed it more during the day.
A few years ago I was having pain in my right hand and wrist. The cause turned out to be using my mouse with an unsupported wrist and arm. Getting a wrist rest for the mouse and extending my desk to support my whole arm solved the problem without the need for surgery to treat carpal tunnel syndrome.
I also remembered having some pain in my feet last year and wondered what else was past my bumper to bumper body warranty. It took about a week to determine my computer was becoming a hazard to my health. I get so preoccupied while using my computer I become oblivious to the physical contortions and stress I’m putting on the rest of my body.
Here’s what I discovered about my computer related foot discomfort. I like to work with my shoes off. I even have the holes in my socks to prove it. As I’m working at my computer my legs become like spaghetti wrapped around the bottom of the chair. I stress my feet by putting pressure on them while placing them on the roller part of the chair. It’s amazing the amount of foot pain a week of foot abuse can cause. I solved the problem by using proper posture while at my computer. One day I actually tested this hypothesis by wearing my shoes all day. The shoes helped but I accomplish the same thing if I keep my feet off the rollers and in front of the chair.
So the remembrance of my foot discomfort provided a clue to the cause of my numb fingers. I decided to monitor my computer posture again. I’ve been spending some very long days in front of my personal confuser (PC). I get tired of proof reading so I rest my head in the palm of my hand and put my elbow on the edge of the desk. What a personal epiphany! As I looked down, I noticed the edge of the desk was putting pressure right on the area of my elbow where the nerves pass to my little finger. Could it be that simple? Yes. Why? Because I’ve been resting my elbow there for long periods and for many days.
As I write this blog I’m happy to report my fingers are slowly returning to normal and I don’t have to spend the big bucks on an EKG or trip to the circular sleep center (Cat Scan) where my claustrophobia would be worse than a nightmare in a dark and noisy cave.
Had my memory been better I should have recalled a phone conversation with my married daughter a few months ago about the numbness in her hand. We talked about spinal tumors and other delightful diseases. I gave her the same advice about watching her computer posture. A few days later she laughed about the revelation of her bad computer posture. Her hand has returned to normal.
So What Do We Learn?
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Please give your aging body a break when you make it sit in front of a computer for countless hours. Get a good chair with lumbar support and a high back for those little impromptu cat naps we need to keep us sharp. The chair should be adjustable (up and down). Don’t eat in front of your computer like I do or you might ingest a computer virus from your keyboard. Take a break and go for a short walk each day or visit your back yard.
Remember, pain is the way your jealous body is getting even with you for spending some much time contorting yourself as you flirt and chat with your computer.