If you’re spending the majority of your day working from a desk, you’re probably part of the 32% of workers who’ve reported injury and illness due to musculoskeletal problems. Sitting hunched over a computer compromises your posture and alignment. Michael Fredericson, sports medicine physiatrist at Stanford Health Care, says while sitting at a desk staring into a computer screen, “you tend to hunch forward, and your neck protrudes, and there’s eye strain. It’s stress that goes through your whole body.” It’s important to understand how stress on the body is affecting you so you can prevent it from getting worse. Below are some common issues and how to best deal with them.
Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is the most common work-related musculoskeletal issue. Slumping back in your seat, or forward towards your computer screen, causes the misalignment of your spine. This leads to unnecessary stress being placed on the ligaments and muscles in your back. Getting support is essential in dealing with this issue, whether it’s an occasional twinge or a more chronic ache. A proper fitting chair should have a back that supports the full length of your spine. The seat should match the length of your thighs for parallel support to the floor; feet should be flat on the ground. Avoid having your feet dangle, “otherwise, the weight of your leg isn’t supported, which puts more strain on your back,” says Stephen Aguilar, occupational therapist and certified ergonomic assessment specialist at UCLA Rehabilitation Services.
The repetitive motion of pounding away on your keyboard can cause the tendons in your wrist to become fatigued and inflamed. Not only is an overuse of these tendons to blame, but possibly the positioning of your wrists. Having your shoulders hunched forward can also compromise a steady flow of blood to your hands, which might result in tingling, numbness, or soreness. The key to a long term solution is to sit upright and hold your wrists naturally over the keys. Getting a wrist rest for your keyboard and mouse can help to ease the pressure. Taking breaks while you type away long reports and emails is also essential.
Neck And Shoulder Pain
Nothing is worse than the constant painful stress you feel in your shoulders and neck while still having to get your work done. These pains likely stem from incorrect placement of your keyboard or computer monitor. Whether too low or too high, having your monitor skewed from your direct line of vision will cause havoc, while having your keyboard placed too far away or too close will bring the need for your shoulders and wrists to adjust. Make sure your monitor is angled directly in your line of sight. The perfect distance for your keyboard should allow your elbows to be positioned at a right angle. If you use the phone a lot, you’re also probably cradling it between your shoulder and ear, causing you to hunch your shoulder up awkwardly. Instead, opt for a headset to relieve any stress that can be put on your shoulders.
Being stuck sitting in the same position for hours on end can certainly stiffen your hip flexors. Tight hip muscles contribute to lower back pain so, nipping it in the bud is important to prevent a number of pains.
“In a perfect world, get up from your desk every 20 to 30 minutes,” Aguilar says. Set a timer every 30 minutes for a “bathroom break.” Even walking around the office for a few minutes can relieve tension. If you can, take at least 30 minutes to walk during your lunch break. It’s important to keep the blood flowing to prevent pain.
It’s almost ironic to think that just sitting can cause so much pain and injury. It’s important to take note of your posture and alignment to prevent additional, unnecessary stress on your muscles, tendons, and ligaments. With a slight adjustment to your workstation and conscious effort of proper alignment and movement, you can rid yourself of common pains and aches brought on in the office.
Guest post by Writing Jackie