Post Submitted by Dr. Nina Vani, PT, DPT – Thanks Dr. Vani!
Can work make you sick?
Back pain, neck pain, headaches, carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and shoulder pain are common complaints among patients who have a “desk job.” People often find themselves stretching their back, neck, hands many times during the day due to stiffness or fatigue. Many do not realize the recurring headaches and/or body aches are due to poor body mechanics (slouching in an office chair), repetitive motions (typing), or prolonged activity in sitting or standing positions. For example, carpal tunnel is caused by repetitive motions from the wrist irritate tendons and ligaments, and increase pressure on the median nerve causing weakness, numbness, and pain in the wrist/hand which radiates up the arm. Static postures, slouched postures, and unsupported positions can compress nerves, restrict blood flow, and/or damage muscles. Prolonged sitting at a computer with poor posture causes rounded shoulders and forward head. If not addressed in time, this could lead to upper crossed syndrome which causes the front neck muscles and mid-back muscles to weaken and stretch, and the back neck muscles, shoulders, and chest muscles to tighten and shorten. This causes abnormal muscle tone and imbalance impacting muscles and posture long term.
Research shows females, years of computer use, and more than 20 hours of computer use per week are directly correlated with an increase in upper extremity and neck pain. Similarly, there is a direct relationship between the increase in the number of hours of computer use and the increase in neck and shoulder pain. Simple adjustments at work can help decrease aches and pains.
Proper sitting and standing posture at work along with ergonomics can help reduce the external stresses on the body decreasing the aches and pain. Ergonomics is defined as the “study of people’s efficiency in working environments.” It is tailored to an employee’s work place, physical requirements, capabilities, and limitations to ensure a safe and suitable place to work.
Adjusting your chair can make a difference
– Chair height should allow for the entire foot to rest on the floor and the back of the knees few inches away from the seat
– Adding a foot rest if feet do no touch the floor
– Armrest supports the forearms, elbows close to torso
– Backrest supporting the entire back, have lumbar support which maintains the natural “S” shape
– Adjustable back that allows at least 15 degrees recline
– Five leg base and casters to allow for appropriate support
– Seat should have sufficient padding, rounded edge, and wide enough to support the hips
What else can I do?
– Computer screen should be at eye level
– Position keyboard at elbow height to allow for typing in neutral wrist alignment
– Stretching every hour
– Taking breaks and walking around every hour
– Adjustable table which can be adjusted to a standing desk and sitting desk to allow for variation during work hours
– Sitting on a Swiss ball instead of chair varying multiple times a day
– Refer to computingcomfort.org for specific chair/desk measurements based on your height
If you find that you are suffering from pain, we suggest you start by making a few simple adjustments to your office setup and posture.
About Dr. Nina Vani, PT, DPT
Nina graduated from University of Michigan-Flint in 2015 with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree. She attended George Mason University for her undergraduate education and has a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She prefers a hands-on approach focusing on manual therapy, sports rehabilitation, vestibular rehabilitation, balance and gait mechanics. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing, traveling, and spending time with her friends and family.