Did you know that Australians sit around 10 hours a day? (1)
Sitting for long periods of time not only increases your risk of health conditions such as diabetes and cancer but also can lead to a long list of musculoskeletal pains and injuries. There is a reason “Desk Disease” is now a commonly used term! Think about it, the human body is created to be active and healthy and to move freely, not the opposite.
So how does sitting at a desk all day cause you pain? Sitting, standing or being in any position for an extended amount of time is going to cause muscular imbalances (where some muscles are tightening up, and some are lengthening and hence becoming weak). When your muscles aren’t working as optimally as they can be our body works hard, and tries to compensate so you are still able to undertake your usual daily actions and activities. This often leads to other muscles becoming more dominant, and becoming tight themselves. Let me give you an example:
It’s snow season again, and you decide to go to Mount Buller for the weekend. You wake up the next morning after a full day skiing, and your legs are very tired and achy and you may be hobbling around due to the pain and/or tightness. This is an example of how being in a prolonged position (in this case having your legs bent in the ski boots, stabilizing yourself as you’re skiing) can cause muscle tightness and hence, imbalance. If you were to ski four hours a day for months and months, the general pain might ease as your body becomes accustomed to the exercise, but this doesn’t mean the underlying muscular imbalance is gone. Same thing applies to desk-related posture.
I think you’d find that the majority of desk workers have experienced some kind of pain in their career. As an osteopath the common complaints I see from desk workers are:
– Neck and back pain
– Wrist and elbow pain
– Pelvis and hip pain
– Knee pain
Unfortunately today a lot of jobs revolve around sitting at a desk. Many workplaces offer ergonomic setups for their employees, but for the meantime here are some simple adjustments you can make to your desk which will help to decrease pain and improve your posture.
1. Your eyes should be level with the top third of the screen. Some desktop computers have an adjustable screen, if you’re unable to do this (or you’re using a laptop) put 2-4 thick books or bundles of A4 paper underneath until it is at an appropriate level
2. Your head and shoulders should be upright, not hunched over towards the screen. Try to remember to keep your shoulders down and relaxed
3. Your elbows should be in approximately 90-120 degrees flexion and resting on the top of your bench easily
4. Your upper and lower back should be fully supported by the curves in your chair. If you sit in a firm chair that doesn’t have spinal support, you can put a rolled up towel in between your lower back and the chair. (Tip: the rolled up towel doesn’t have to be big, a hand towel may be enough to give your lower back the support it needs).
5. Your legs should be parallel and uncrossed, and your knees should be at 90-110 degrees flexion to the ground. Your feet should be firmly planted on the ground or resting on a footrest.
These simple yet effective changes can have a huge impact on how your body feels. I struggled with neck and back pain throughout secondary school and university, and only when I adjusted my desk set up did I see major changes in my pain.
Are you looking for support for your desk ergonomics and any aches or pains from your desk? Book an appointment with our Osteopath, Dr. Sarah Duggan. Here Sarah can address your symptoms with hands-on treatment. It would also be beneficial for you to bring in photos of you at your desk, of your chair, and of your desk set up and we can give you advice on some adjustments you can make, which should reduce your risk of these pains reoccurring.
This blog post is an educational tool only. It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.
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image: Glamour Magazine UK