Man diFd not evolve with computers. Had our ancestors used e-mail and word processing programs to survive, chances are that we all would have rubber fingers today. But hunting, gathering and fighting for survival rarely required sitting all day moving only wrists and fingers. Doctors, occupational therapists and physical therapists have seen the casualties of computer-related work. At clinics specializing in occupational disorders, about half of the patients seen are there as a result of cumulative trauma disorders, or CTDs, caused by working too much , or not smart enough , on computers.s. Most workers with CTDs, also called repetitive stress disorders, are restored to full mobility after modifying their work site, modifying their work habits and physical therapy. As with many illnesses, the sooner a problem is identified, the more likely a full recovery. A vast majority of cases that turn out to be disasters were treatable at the start. In general, employers are attuned to the fact that ignoring these problems can be detrimental to business. There is generally big interest from management in dealing with (CTDs) adequately. There is the cost, but also on a human level, as one person about another. Employers are generally receptive if we point out a workstation change, or ask for restricted hours during therapy. Because if they aren’t, it is going to cost them upwards of $100,000 by the time they are done with a case of severe carpal tunnel. There is huge impetus to get the problem over with quickly because costs add up. While just one piece of the puzzle, an ergonomically correct workstation can improve painful situations quickly. Workers should be seated so that all parts are at right angles. Feet are on the floor, knees are bent 45 degrees, back is straight, elbows are bent 45 degrees. Wrists should be bent at a slight “negative tilt,” or about ten degrees up , the most natural-feeling position , and should be supported with a wrist rest.t. Modifying an existing workstation can be as simple as by purchasing a $28 “desk extender,” a tray that fits under the keyboard extending a wrist rest beyond the edge of the desk, or as expensively as with a $3,000 adjustable table, footrest, split keyboard, track ball or ergonomic mouse with wrist rest, hard copy holder, and $600 chair. The key is to make the workstation as adjustable as possible. A number of companies manufacture a variety of pillows, desk extenders, adjustable keyboard trays, and other products to modify existing workstations. People don’t know that they can go into their computer and increase or decrease their mouse tracking speed. Those that have the mouse set too slow, for instance, often expend too much energy repeatedly pushing the mouse across its pad. The company showroom, open by appointment only, displays a range of adaptive workstation equipment from chairs to variously sized pillows, to desks and glare screens. Meanwhile, workers can modify their own habits. Take five minutes every half hour rather than 10-minute breaks every hour. In addition to getting out of the chair, stretching arm, back and leg muscles and resting eyes, workers should work on their overall physical health. The best thing workers can do is to keep good general health and posture, stay the right weight, don’t smoke, drink or use drugs. Pay attention to warning signs, the doctors advise. If complaining of consistent pain, loss of grip strength, loss of dexterity, pain that wakes them up at night, numbness, cramps or spasms, workers should at least be examined by a physician. However, some soreness or aching is probably reasonable for what they do. The key to all these problems is prevention. By the time I see someone in physical therapy it is too late. Someone should have warned them, and the problem should have been prevented. The more knowledge workers have the better. We live in a ‘fix-it’ society, but it is the individual’s responsibility to prevent CTDs from becoming a problem. A physical therapist, once recommended by a doctor, will evaluate a patient and identify a specific problem, whether it is a compressed disk in the neck, damaged tendons or other tissue, a blood-flow problem, or something else. Wrists and hands see the most computer terminal-related injuries, but headaches, radiating pain, back, shoulder and neck pains also are common. A workstation has to be set up to serve the worker. People are all different sizes. You have to fit the situation to the person, not the other way around. Ellie Park is a personal trainer and work fitness specialist based in Sherman Oaks.