Wellness in the Workplace
Having a job that leaves you stuck at your desk can be challenging for multiple reasons. Often we do not take regular breaks to walk around during the day. The mental exhaustion that occurs at work also can leave many without energy to exercise or be active after they clock out. We at Texas Health Huguley in Fort Worth want to share a few simple and useful tips that can help you avoid cervical and lumbar pain and get some added exercise during the workday.
Proper sitting posture is important to maintain, especially to avoid chronic symptoms in your cervical spine as well as carpal tunnel syndrome. If you are stuck at your desk and having complaints of neck, shoulder or lumbar pain, look at your posture at the computer and your chair support.
You want to make sure that you are looking straight at your computer or slightly lower; try not to have your computer monitor above eye level. Wrists should be in a neutral position to avoid carpal tunnel symptoms. As the day progresses, if you catch yourself leaning forward to see the screen, try to increase font size to avoid getting a forward head posture, which will strain your cervical spine.
Desk chairs can be challenging because you are restricted to what your office provides, but a simple solution is a rolled-up towel or a small circular pillow. Either item can be placed at your lower back against the back of your chair for increased lumbar support, which will prevent slumped posture. Your desk chair should have armrests that you can rest your forearms on to prevent you from hiking your shoulders toward your ears by the end of the day. Your feet should be rested on the ground with hip and knee angles at 90 degrees.
When you get in the middle of a project it is sometimes hard to pull yourself away from it so you don’t lose focus, but at the same time sitting at your computer or desk can cause more problems than you might realize. Set a timer for every 30-45 minutes for a cue on taking a break. When the timer goes off, take five minutes to stand up and either take a small walk around the office or stand up and do a few shoulder rolls or marche in place to get your blood pumping. This will help you to focus more on your task, along with giving you a small break.
Some offices will offer stand-up desks which allow you to alternate positions throughout the day. This is a wonderful way to break the cycle of sitting all day as well as help with posture and spinal health. Be mindful of your standing posture at your desk and avoid shifting your weight to the right or left side. Stand with equal pressure through both legs. When shifting your weight to one side you are placing increased pressure through that lower extremity as well as through your spine.
Incorporating these few small adjustments at your desk and adding some of these activities throughout your day can prevent increased cervical, lumbar and shoulder pain as well as break the cycle of sitting all day. If you have questions or current symptoms and need advice, talk to your doctor. Receiving physical therapy, where a therapist develops a regimen that you can incorporate at your desk, can help you address your concerns, alleviate pain and make your body stronger and healthier.
By Meagan Proctor, PT, DPT, CKTP, CIDN, Texas Health Huguley Physical Therapist