Added on May 22, 2017
Poor posture and long periods of sitting are common in today's workplace. In fact, people spend about 2,000 hours per year sitting with poor posture! And because of modern workplace demands, it's usually difficult to re-adjust once you've become used to a certain position. It's even harder to find time to stand and walk throughout the day. Unfortunately, research shows sitting for long periods of time can increase the risk for obesity, heart disease and overall mortality. However, both proper positioning and taking breaks to move can reduce the risk of developing back pain, neck pain and musculoskeletal disorder.
Musculoskeletal disorders are disorders of the muscles, tendons or nerves, caused by repeated or aggravating body movement – like leaning forward to see your screen. Poor posture and sitting for long periods of time can cause irritation to the hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, neck and back. This irritation caused by compressed nerves can cause damage and severe pain, increasing the risk for musculoskeletal disorders. Injuries related to workplace posture are known as "work-related upper limb disorder," "repetitive strain injury," or "occupational overuse syndrome."
It's important to get up and move around as much as possible. Our bodies are not meant to sit still in one place, day after day. If your office allows it, research shows that "sit-stand desks" decrease workplace sitting for one to two hours per day. You can also try "active workstations" such as treadmill desks or pedaling workstations, which look like bike pedals on a stand under your desk (to get your legs moving). Check out this article by USA Today for more information about active workstations.
To decrease the risk of musculoskeletal disorders from repetitive strain, it is recommended to get up from your workstation and take multiple breaks per day - even if the break is to just use the copy machine, grab a cup of water or file papers. It's important to stand up, stretch, and walk.
Try these easy tips to help reduce pain caused by sitting for long periods of time. If you're already in pain and want to visit a physical therapist to relieve your pain and teach you techniques for better posture, request an appointment here.
Patricia Bonatakis, SPT
Ivy Rehab in Union, NJ
AIHA Protecting Worker Health. An Ergonomics Approach to Avoiding Office Workplace Injuries and Illnesses. https://www.aiha.org/about-ih/Pages/an-ergonomics-approach-to-avoiding-office-workplace-injuries-and-illnesses.aspx. Accessed May 5, 2017.
Work Station and Posture Tips – The Spine Hospital at The Neurological Institute of New York. The Spine Hospital at The Neurological Institute of New York. http://columbiaspine.org/physical-therapy/work-station-and-posture-tips/. Accessed May 5, 2017.
Shrestha N, Kukkonen-Harjula KT, Verbeek JH, Ijaz S, Hermans V, Bhaumik S. Workplace interventions for reducing sitting at work. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD010912. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010912.pub3
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