It may surprise you to learn how a job with few physical demands, if any, can be so taxing on the body. Of course, working at a job where you must stand all day carries its own risks, such as working construction or in a factory. The problem with office work, though, is the time spent sitting at a desk. The human body did not evolve for sitting in excess of 8 hours a day, and that number doesn’t even factor in your commute time.
You may be having pain because of your poor posture during prolonged sitting or from repetitive motions, like typing and moving your mouse. While the answer to improving your aches and pains isn’t to up and quit your desk job and find other work, you can find relief with simple stretches in many cases. Worst case scenario? Look for a physical therapist to find the remedy to your desk job-induced pains.
Common aches and pains from desk work, and what you can do about them:
- Lower back pain: You may have the occasional twinge or ongoing pain, which can hinder your work performance. It is usually caused by slumping your back in your desk or slouching forward, which pushes your spine out of alignment by straining the ligaments and muscles.
What you can do: A back pillow for your desk chair can help you sit up straighter. Keep your feet flat on the floor, with your thighs parallel to the floor. Without proper support for the weight of your legs, you’ll be putting more strain on your back. To quickly relieve back tension when it crops up, rock your hips back and forth while sitting, tilt your hips up and round your back, and then tilt your hips back. This helps loosen up the back muscles.
- Wrist strain: Desk workers often spend hours of the day typing, whether it’s writing up reports, responding to emails, or the like. A combination of overuse and wrist positioning of your keyboard can exacerbate this issue. Hunching forward over your keyboard with slumped shoulders adds to the strain as well. In more serious cases, patients may be suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition in which nerves in the wrist are compressed, resulting in hand weakness, burning and tingling pain.
What you can do: For quick relief, perform a prayer stretch (also called a Buddha stretch) with your palms together in front of your chest, fingers upward, and move your elbows outwards. Hold for 5 seconds. Another way to ease wrist strain is to invest in an ergonomic keyboard, which places your wrists at a more comfortable angle for typing.
- Neck and shoulder pain: Sometimes a desk job is a pain in the neck, literally. While you may be tempted to reach for the ibuprofen to alleviate the ache, it may be more helpful to think long-term instead.
What you can do: Start by making modifications such as putting your computer monitor directly in front of you, so you don’t have to strain your neck by moving your head to the side to see it. Try stretching regularly during the day to release a tight neck and relieve shoulder soreness, such as the chin-tuck exercise, also called neck retraction. This is performed while standing or sitting upright. To do the exercise, push your head forward and jut out your chin as far as you can. Slowly reverse the movement while keeping your head level, and repeat up to four times.
If none of the above do-it-yourself remedies prove useful, a skilled physical therapist may be able to help you iron out the kinks. Our team of highly-trained physical therapists use state-of-the-art technology to treat patients with a variety of conditions.
To schedule an appointment with one of our highly-qualified physical therapists, please contact us today at (732) 812-5200 or schedule your appointment online.