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Desk Pains – Helpful Advice for Office Workers

Woman experiencing pain sitting at desk

You might think the best candidates for physiotherapy are athletes, patients with chronic pain or people with physically demanding jobs.  While we see plenty of those, we also see our fair share of people who work in an office environment.  This is because many people who sit at a desk all day can develop significant aches and pains in the back, shoulder and neck.

If you are someone who works at a computer or spends a lot of time on the phone, we’ve got some tips to help you reduce the risk of injury.

Assess your desk

You spend several hours a day in your work space, so be sure that it is set up not just for success, but for comfort as well.  Ensure that you have a comfortable desk and chair.  Poorly designed or configured work areas can aggravate symptoms when it comes to back, shoulder and neck pain caused at the office.

  • Make sure your chair has proper lumbar support. If not, purchase an aftermarket support (or see if your company will provide one for you).  Constantly engaging your spinal muscles all day can be very uncomfortable and irritating to the tissues in your back, hips and pelvic areas.
  • Adjust your armrests so that you remain relaxed. Your forearms should be in line with the floor, while your upper arms should rest easily beside your spine.  The more relaxed you are at your desk the better you will feel.
  • Ensure that your screen is close enough that you are not constantly leaning forward to see it. Make sure it is at an angle that is comfortable for your line of sight. Frequent adjustments of your position throughout the day can often help to prevent discomfort.
  • Make sure your mouse pad, if you use one, allows your wrist to rest comfortably without hovering or leaning on the edge of your desk.
  • Adjust your chair so that your feet are able to sit flat on the floor.

Some companies will arrange an assessment of your work space if you request one or will even provide you with accommodations to help you avoid future pain or injuries.  If you aren’t sure, it can’t hurt to ask!

Don’t overly focus on your posture!

Aside from the actual work space being set up properly, there are a few other things we can do to avoid aches and pains:

  • Sitting up straight, slouching, slumping, leaning to one side are all acceptable sitting postures. It is not the one correct posture that needs to be held, it is the variety of postures you use throughout the day that is most important.  Focusing on rigid upright postures may seem like a good idea but research suggests it may cause more problems.  It’s not an easy habit to get into though, so keep working on it!
  • Frequent movements throughout the day are the best strategies you can do to prevent pain and discomfort. Easy and controlled spinal, shoulder and neck movements while seated every 15-20 minutes is a good idea to prevent or manage any discomfort.

Phones and neck pain

If your job requires you to be on your phone a lot, you should definitely have a headset or work on hands free.  Holding your phone or tucking it between your neck and shoulder while you talk is likely going to irritate structures in your neck and shoulder areas.  The advice to keep moving and avoid long static postures can be applied to every aspect of the office workday.

Always be Active

Another cause of aches and strains is the simple act of doing nothing.  Staying in the same spot for hours on end is less than ideal, and yet it is the reality for many of us who work in an office environment.  Take the stairs, get up and walk around every hour or so, and even do a few simple stretches when you are particularly busy at work.  Staying as active as possible really helps to avoid muscle strains.

If you do experience shoulder, back or neck pain – from your workspace or otherwise, give us a call to see how we can help.  Our friendly and experienced physiotherapists know just how to relieve those aches and pains and can even give you a few extra tips and tricks to help avoid further injuries in the future.