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Taking breaks at the computer good or bad?

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by dabatross, Feb 26, 2012.

  1. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    First of all just want to say this new forum is night and day from the old one. It's way more organized, has a WYSIWYG editor, and loads fast nice work on this and thanks for putting it up.

    I've pretty much stopped everything physically because I'm focusing on fixing this problem psychologically but is it still ok to take breaks at the computer using software to remind me? I use software because otherwise there are times where I'll work for an hour or more without taking a break which I hear isn't the best for the body. Right now I turned off the software to remind me of taking a break because I was worried that this could somehow be "reinforcing" in my unconscious that there is something physically wrong with my body. However, there is also a point where the body does need to take a break and if I'm not doing that on my own because i'm too absorbed in my work I like to have the program to remind me. Is this ok to do when treating TMS/PPD or should I get rid of the break software?

    I'm sure most of you who work with computers have heard of the 20/20/20 rule or the 10/10/10 rule where every so often such as 20 minutes you should look into the distance for at least 20 seconds. These rules are recommended so that you're giving your eyes and the rest of your body adequate rest during the day. I just want to make sure this isn't going to hinder my process of treating TMS.


  2. Enrique

    Enrique Well known member


    I'm glad you like the new forum. I love it too!!

    Regarding you question, I don't think having a break reminder is big hindrance to TMS work. I would use one if I did the kind of work where I was absorbed to the computer for long lengths of time and I wasn't used to such work. My current work doesn't demand that kind of focus and I am frequently stopping to take/make calls and step away from my desk so I don't need that kind of reminder. As you say, the body does need a break at times. What I'm trying to say is that if you evaluate your work at the computer and believe that if you don't have a reminder you might work hours and hours and hours without stopping then, sure, have a reminder. I think it would be a very healthy thing to do, especially if you aren't used to doing that volume of work at the computer.

    One thing I would point out is that our bodies do get stronger through use. I liken the concept to running or other physical exercise. It's called progressive overload. You run longer, faster, or lift heavier and heavier weight and your body adapts and responds by getting stronger, become more resistant to fatigue. I would expect a person who has been working on a computer for years and years to actually be able to work longer and longer without breaks. This is just like a person who could run 20 miles without a walk break because they've been training for 4 or 5 years.

    So evaluate your situation and determine if you are needing the breaks because of fear or are you needing the breaks because your hands, eyes, back (all the things that are utilized when working on a computer) haven't had the time to build up strength over time?

    This is my opinion on the matter. Others may have other thoughts.
  3. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is a great point. The longer you do something the more your body is used to doing that activity. A person who works on a computer every day should be able to work longer on the computer then someone who is never on it. From my own experience I do know that it can be really hard to get back to using the computer for long periods of time. At the worst point, my symptoms prevented me from typing more then a couple of sentences. When I learned about TMS I really gained the confidence to start typing for longer periods of time. I knew that typing would hurt my hands so I kept building up the length of time each day. Now I work on computers all the time without feeling any pain at all!

    I would say though that if you want to take a break every once in a while you certainly should. Taking a break for a few seconds everyone once in a while will not prevent you from recovering. As long as you know what the true cause of your symptoms are you will be okay. I think of it more as working yourself back. You may eventually get to a point where you don't need to take breaks, but in the beginning I think it is important to do whatever it is you are most comfortable with.
  4. brianleejackson

    brianleejackson Peer Supporter

    I think breaks are good... but when I was going through the worst point of my TMS, I was in the same point as Forest... I could barely type a sentence on a computer. Now I am back at work, on a computer from 8am to 5PM, really only taking a break at lunch. I have changed a few of my habits, I work out now every evening (which I didn't do before). For me, the working out has just helped boost my confidence that there is nothing physically wrong with my body.

    I agree with Forest, in the beginning I think you should do whatever you are most comfortable with... but for me I know the timer thing would cause a hindrance. I would be thinking deep down that there is a reason I am taking the breaks, and it is because my body can't handle it... which isn't the case. But everyone is different.
  5. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    thanks guys for responding i know all of you work on computers so its helpful to hear what you have to say. yeah the breaks for me with the reminder are just to make sure that i'm actually taking breaks at the computer and not going for an hour without even looking away. even with TMS/PPD like I have, i still think its a good thing to take breaks and stuff to make sure my body is getting the rest it needs during the day. even though i've been working on computers for years when your entire work day is on the computer its important to take breaks to rest your eyes and the rest of your muscles so they dont fatigue out. am i wrong on this? do you agree or disagree with that? thanks for the feedback on how this would affect my TMS treatment as well. i was just worried that taking scheduled breaks like this would hinder my progress and thats the last thing i want to do right now. you see these break reminders out there a lot now. theres a lot of software where all it does it remind you to take a break because you all know that computer work can be engrossing and before you know it an hour and a half has passed by and you haven't even gotten out of your chair or looked away from the computer at all. do you guys do this stuff at the computer as well?
  6. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    I think the whole point is that you don't have to worry about if you are or are not working too long. Having that obsession of I haven't taken a break in a while is something bad going to happen can fuel the TMS fear and obsession. If you want to take a break every hour or so then that is great, but don't feel like you have to to prevent yourself from being hurt. Conditioning is a large part of what drives TMS and is something that everyone has to overcome when the first start our recovering. This simply means that your unconscious mind may create pain if you ignore the break alarm. The main thing to keep in mind is that if you have an increase of symptoms when you don't take a break, don't let that deter you. Remind yourself that it is just TMS and your unconscious mind's conditioned response. I dealt with this a lot in my own recovery. Feel free to read my story at http://tmswiki.org/forum/members/forest.6/
  7. marjrc

    marjrc New Member

    I agree with you, Forest, and would worry that not taking a break could create fear that something will start to hurt. It could be a fine line between wanting a break to give your body a chance to stretch and/or focus on something else and thinking that a break is a must and without one, you'll hurt yourself somehow. Many people work for hours on the computer w/o ever needing any type of break. Look at what motivates you to need that reminder. What would happen if you, in fact, did work three or four hours straight on the computer? In theory, you might feel a little stiff, but there shouldn't be pain.
  8. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    i see what you're saying guys the thing is i get double vision at the computer intermittenty i dont know if any of you experience that when spending long hours either using the computer or watching TV. when I have a bad day my mind likes to attribute the double vision to being the cause of my pain. i think its just my eyes letting go from being tired but putting two and two together you would think that the double vision is happening along with the pain. hard to explain because i've talked to other people who use the computer 8 hours a day like i do, and they said they get double vision sometimes as well, but my fear sets in like "im getting double vision because my eyes are overworked and I need to take a break otherwise the pain will get worse". i want to take breaks at the computer as a prevention mechanism and just to stay healthy. i dont think its healthy to sit at a computer not moving for 3 hours straight and if i dont have a scheduled reminder to take a break i'll get lost in my work and before you know it that much time has gone by and i haven't even gotten up or looked into the distance to relax my eyes.

    i think its fine line im running here of taking breaks for my body which is natural.. people have to take breaks from tasks especially ones like working on the computer all day but i also dont want to do it out of fear either. like i said the only reason i used the timed break is otherwise i wont remember to take them
  9. marjrc

    marjrc New Member

    I do agree that breaks from computer work is healthiest. Absolutely! I too tend to have double vision if I'm on here too long, but then I have the opportunity to get up often as I work from home and my computer is in a busy area of the house. I get up, do other things, care for the dogs, the house, go out on errands, come back... it's all great for giving me a break. When I do sit here for more than a couple of hours in a row, I tend to get very stiff and have sore hands and neck. I don't fear this stiffness, though, so it's a non-issue for me. It used to be one, before learning that it was PPD and that nothing was, in fact, "broken". I think it's how you view the pain you might get that is important, not the actual pain should you get it.
  10. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    hi marjrc at least im not the only one that gets double vision at the computer. thats the thing that gets translated in my mind like "the double vision im getting is probably the outcome of the pain" but i know from past evidence this isn't the case. here is something strange that ive noticed:

    There are days if I'm really busy where I won't take timed eye breaks and ill just do them naturally. i dont pay attention to when im taking breaks i just take them. these were days when i came home and i didn't feel as much pain as usual.

    On days that I did take timed eye breaks I would have more pain than if I didn't take them. This wouldn't make any sense from a physical standpoint. If I'm taking more breaks it should equal less pain right?

    The only conclusion that comes from this in my opinion is that on those days I was busy and wasn't focused on the breaks, my attention wasn't on the pain. I was focused on my work instead so at the end of the day my pain perception was different. I had less pain because I wasn't focused on the pain which is part of what I think TMS really is. It's attention to the pain and fearing it that causes it. I always wondered that previously when I forgot I turned off my break timer (I had to do a video or something and couldn't have it ding going off) and at the end of the day im like "oh I didn't have the break timer on this whole time and I don't feel as bad as when I did have it on".

    I do get intermittent double vision and I wonder if that is caused by my eyes just being tired or does this have something to do with TMS as well? Like I said i know my pain is TMS induced because any normal eye strain would go away shortly after I was done working on the computer. I went on vacation last July for 3 days, did absolutely no computer work or near work I was camping, and during that time I had the same eye pain sensations as I normally would working at the computer. Doesn't make any sense. Any "normal physical strain" would certainly go away in 3 days time its not like I stabbed myself in the eye or something its just computer work. The fact that it stayed around, sometimes just as strong, during that vacation period where I wasn't doing any nearwork says something.
  11. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    i wanted to post back to this thread again after some more experience ive had with this issue. as i said previously above there are two things going on here:

    1. i fear that if i dont have the timed breaks, im not going to get sufficient breaks during the day because im absorbed into my work and ill get strain from that.

    2. if i do take the timed breaks, it seems to be a reinforcement like brian said where its like telling your unconscious "hey if you dont take a break your eye strain is going to get worse".

    its like a double edged sword for me right now. over the past couple of weeks the pain has gotten worse.. it started downhill right after that dinner meeting i had that i was worried about and having social anxiety over. i had a few better symptom days before that which i was proud of. i wasn't like 100% better but the pain levels were lower than usual which was good. today was a bad pain day though and here is the thing i wanted to discuss with you guys and see what your input is:

    I actually worked less hours today than other days where I've had less pain. I was taking the timed breaks today, trying not to miss any of them, and it seemed like my pain was getting worse throughout the day. the pulling/tightness/aching sensation in my eyes. i started getting double vision as well. i know other people who get double vision at the computer and dont have this symptoms like i do but thats the first thing my brain relates: "the double vision must be related to the eye strain im experiencing" thats what my thoughts hold on to. really the only physical thing i can pull out of all of this is the double vision but like marjrc said about she gets double vision at the computer too. i think this is a normal thing where the eyes are just letting go for a tiny bit to rest because they've been looking at a computer screen for a long time. ive sure avid readers get double vision at times too. i think this is just my brain trying to distract me again and pull my thoughts back into the physical realm when im trying to stay out of there. so:

    1. there doesn't seem to be a correlation between if i take breaks or not and my eyestrain levels. like today i took all fo the breaks but still had a lot of eyestrain but then other days i didn't take timed breaks and i had less eyestrain. this wouldn't make sense from a physical standpoint.

    2. today i didn't have as much work to do so my mind had more time to wander and think about the pain. i think this plays a major role in the symptom levels each day for me because it allows my mind to focus more on the pain and fills up my awareness of it.

    3. a really interesting thing that i noticed is that other people that ive talked to didn't notice they had eyestrain until i pointed out to them that they didn't have it. a bad habit of mine is wondering why other people, who do the same work i do for the same amount of hours each day, dont have the symptoms i have. ill ask them "how come you can sit there and stare the screen for hours and not feel anything" and their response is "i dont know i dont think about it like you do" then like a minute later they said "actually i do have some eyestrain.. thanks a lot for pointing it out to me..." so they didn't even notice they had it until i mentiond it to them. i think this has to do with hypersensitivity and awareness of a particular body part. in my case its the eyes. i think its the nerve pathways that have been trained to look for changes in symptoms in the eyes and then i pay way more attention to them than i should which makes me feel it a lot more than other people.

    does anyone have advice on how to overcome these fears? i want to take breaks from the computer just to stay healthy and stuff but i get really involved in my work and inevitably forget to take them. i feel like if i stop the timed eye breaks i wont get sufficient breaks during the day. but.. i know that the timed breaks are probably acting as a reinforcement to my subconscious to continue the pain cycle so like i said its kind of a double edged sword.

    i really appreciate your feedback thank you

  12. veronica73

    veronica73 Well known member

    Hi Alex,

    OK, this is my non-medical opinion...it seems like the timed breaks are keeping you super focused on eyestrain. You'll end up taking breaks even without a timer--at some point you're going to get up to get coffee or water or talk to someone, etc. You're not going to sit there staring straight at the screen for 8 hours anyway.

    My PT had told me about timed breaks for my headaches which she thought were being produced by how I sit. It just seemed like too much work to set a timer so I found myself thinking about it a lot, like oh maybe I should get up now? And the breaks didn't help. I have days now where I don't move for a few hours and I'm pretty much OK because I'm working on TMS.

    Take care,
  13. sewmuch

    sewmuch Member

    How about just take breaks to take breaks when you need or want them as part of your day, not because of anything or to prevent anything? Regardless of what one is doing - computer work, surgery, factory work, teaching, construction - you, your whole being, mind and body, needs breaks. Get up, take some deep breaths, stretch, walk around, look out the window, think of something happy/calming/soothing like a loved one, a sunset, ice cream, close your eyes and clear your head, become aware and reconnected with your surroundings and yourself. Even just for a few minutes. If you get so involved, have a computer reminder. Otherwise just do it when you want. Think of it as sort of personal "reset".

    It makes you so much more relaxed, alert, and better prepared for the tasks ahead.

    I used to not take lunch thinking I could get more done. By the mid afternoon my mind was exhausted. Taking a longer midday break and walking was huge. Not only did I feel better mentally and physically for the afternoon but I actually often solved problems, often subconsciously, and got more creative.

    I recently read a quote "Life is more than speeding it up" by Gandhi. Love it and think that a key to overall health is slowing down, re-connecting, and being aware of the present.
  14. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    There is a chance, that by taking the breaks and were focused on not missing any of them, you were feeding you thinking too structural and hence your symptoms increased. In my recovery, the more I said, I have to take breaks and limit my activity, the worse my symptoms were. I think this is because I was telling myself that I had to take the breaks because I was weak and had a physical problem necessitating rest. But it was this thought that really feed most of my symptoms.

    In the end it comes down to how you view it. It sounds like you were really focusing hard on taking breaks and that might be why the symptoms increased. Anyways, this is just a thought.
  15. dabatross

    dabatross Well known member

    thanks guys for all your responses. veronica thats how i feel. the timer its kind of like a reminder to me that if i dont take a break pain levels are going to go up. this comes from the past couple of years reading stuff from various websites and hearing it from doctors that if you dont take breaks you're going to experience pain. theres that fine line that im riding right now where i should take breaks just like anybody else to keep myself healthy but the timed breaks seem to reinforce the pain cycle. sewmuch i agree if i dont take breaks my mind is burned out and i start losing focus and stuff on the task at hand. of course this happens as well when you're in pain and trying to go through your work day.

    Forest i know what you're talking about here. for me its not that i feel weak but i think deep down there is a fear that if im not taking the breaks regularly the pain is going to go up. like i said above this is because i read so much stuff on the 20/20/20 rule, 15/15/15 rule of looking away from your computer, pretty much any computer ergonomics site will say stuff like this, and after you're read that for so long and had doctors say you have eye problems it sinks deep into your unconscious. So there is definitely a fear there for me that if im not taking enough breaks the pain levels are going to go up which i know feeds the pain cycle. thats why i said its like a double edged sword. if i dont take the timed breaks, im fearing that im not getting enough of them. if i do take the timed breaks, its reinforcing the knowledge that i need them otherwise im going to experience increased pain levels. do you know what im saying?

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