We all know what it’s like to work behind a desk all day.
After staring at a screen for a while, we get completely absorbed in what we’re doing and become oblivious to the fact that we’re slouching and sticking our necks out. Attractive or what?! Whilst stand-up desks and ergonomics have gone a long way to improving the way we work at a computer, many people still struggle with the latent injuries that come with sitting.
Here are five ways to deal with, and prevent the chronic pain that comes with being desk-bound:
1. Be Aware of How You Sit
Holding any position for extended periods can have painful consequences, so it’s important to be aware of the way you’re sitting. Ironically, according to physiotherapist Megan van Schoor from Samantha Dunbar Physiotherapy, many people actually try to sit up too straight, which can also cause problems. Some companies have trained physiotherapists that will help you to set up your desk correctly, but even just having an awareness of your posture can help to prevent what is known as work related upper limb disorder.
2. Be Aware of When You Sit
Sitting for extended periods in an incorrect position can cause problems. Even being at a standing desk all day can be problematic if you aren’t standing correctly. Be aware of taking regular breaks to walk around, and work on strengthening your stabilising muscles to prevent unnecessary injury. Exercise such as Pilates can help to strengthen your core muscles, which play an important role in keeping your body aligned and stable. Breaking up your day into alternating periods of sitting and standing can help to alleviate any pain caused from sitting for too long.
3. Make Movement a Priority
According to some recommendations, you should get up and move around every 20-30mins, depending on who you ask. For those doing complex tasks, this might not always be an option, which has led to the development of a variety of apps to help with the management of your work schedule by reminding you to get up and walk around. One of these apps is Voom, which will alert you at regular intervals and also provides a number of exercises to do in the office to prevent any strain.
4. Reorganise Your Workday
Unfortunately, repeated habits associated with a deskbound routine means that noticeable pain and muscles strain take a while to develop, and can then be difficult to address even if the symptoms can be treated. These are what are referred to as “insidious onset” injuries. By adjusting your work schedule to limit the amount of sitting as much as possible, you can prevent any unnecessary injury. This awareness, in addition to being very conscious about the way you sit or stand when you work, could help to limit your time spent at a desk, for example by setting up face-to-face meetings when possible instead of making another Skype call.
5. Address Chronic Pain and Work to Resolve It
As many physiotherapists and other physical health practitioners suggest, addressing pain as soon as you feel it can be helpful in preventing the problem from getting any worse. While we might all try to brush off a little neck pain, being proactive about addressing any discomfort can help prevent it becoming a chronic issue. Although working at a desk might be an inevitable part of an evolving workplace, it doesn’t mean that we can’t find efficient ways to adapt effectively to our work environment.