The most common reason people come to see me in the clinic is because they have upper back and neck pain caused by sitting all day at a desk. This pain can range from ongoing stiffness or discomfort to acute episodes of sharp pain and restricted movement.
If this sounds like you, there are five steps you can take to relieve your discomfort:
Step One – look at your workstation
The first step in managing this pain is to try and reduce the strain that caused it in the first place. Many workplaces provide ergonomic assessments of employees’ work stations. Simple measures such as ensuring that your computer monitor is at the correct height and using a separate keyboard rather than a laptop for long periods at a time can make a big difference. Mouse positioning, foot stools and chair height and angles play a role. If you are unsure and your employer does not provide ergonomic assessments, take a photo of yourself sitting at your work station and show it to your osteopath. Or get in touch with the osteopaths at Sydney Health Professionals to arrange an onsite assessment for your workstation.
Step Two – get the right chair
The chair that you spend your day in makes a big difference. A good chair doesn’t need to be expensive and flash, just comfortable and supportive of the natural curvatures of your spine while ensuring your body is at an optimal angle to your desk. Try sitting back in your chair. If you are sitting on the edge of your seat, your chair cannot support your back and your muscles will fatigue, leading to strain and discomfort. Buy a new chair if it helps!
Step Three – get out of your chair!
Research now shows that using a standing desk is better for you than sitting all day. If this is an option at your workplace, give it a go. Standing desks will become more commonplace over the next few years.
If you are required to sit at a desk, try to stay away from it as much as possible! Get up often and move around. Get out of the office for lunch, and have walking meetings.
Step Four – get some professional help
If you are already suffering from office-related back and neck pain and your work station is as good as it can be, a visit to your osteopath could be helpful in reducing your strain and getting you back on track. After a thorough examination, an osteopath may use techniques such as massage and joint mobilisation to relieve areas of tension and to improve muscle balance and alignment, all of which can reduce strain.
Step Five – stretch those pecs
Prescribed home exercises or certain exercise classes can also help undo some of the strain caused by sitting at a computer all day. As a general rule, the muscles on the front of your body are shortened when you are sitting all day, so these are the muscles we target with osteopathic techniques and stretches. For example, I have never met an office worker who wouldn’t benefit from doing pectoral stretches!
Why not start right now? It’s time to get off your computer, make a cup of tea and do some exercises!