Sit All Day? How to Prevent These Common Injuries
Do you spend your day sitting at a desk and looking at a computer? Whether you work in an office or from home, you may notice that you experience uncomfortable or even debilitating aches and pains from your job. So what can you do (short of figuring out how to retire early) to avoid or alleviate the discomfort while still getting your work done?
Workplace injuries for desk jockeys (people who spend most of their time sitting at their desks for work) typically include back, hip, neck, shoulder, elbow, wrist and eye strain or pain. The good news is that you may be able to avoid discomfort by making a few changes to how you work throughout the day.
Here are some tips for preventing these common aches and pains:
- Back pain. The biggest complaint from many people who sit all day is that their lower back hurts. Whether you experience an occasional twinge or chronic pain, adjusting your posture and ensuring you have enough support are key. Your back should rest against the back of your chair and feet should be flat on the floor. Sitting upright with good posture helps keep your spine aligned so there’s less strain on muscles and ligaments. Getting up often to move and stretch helps alleviate pain and stiffness. Doing core exercises, such as crunches, may also help.
- Neck pain. Feeling an ache in your neck or shoulders? That may be due to the placement of your keyboard and monitor. If they’re too far away, your neck juts out and your shoulders tilt forward. Looking down at your phone can also cause the same problem. So does placing your monitor to the side, which forces your neck into an awkward position. All of this causes your spine to be out of alignment, putting strain on muscles and ligaments. Improving your posture, positioning monitors properly and doing neck stretches can help.
- Wrist pain. Discomfort in your wrist may be caused by overuse (doing the same thing repetitively) and improper wrist positioning. Over time, wrist pain can lead to a more serious issue known as carpal tunnel syndrome. This refers to compression of a nerve in the wrist that causes pain, numbness, tingling and weakness. To prevent wrist issues, get a wrist rest for your keyboard and keep wrists in a horizontal position—not higher than your hands or resting on your desk. Take breaks throughout the day and gently stretch arms, wrists and hands.
- Eye strain. Staring at a screen can take a toll on your eyes. If your monitor is too far or too close, it can cause eye strain because your eyes have to work harder to focus. Your eyes may also feel dry because people tend to blink less often when looking at screens. One of the best ways to ease eye strain is to follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, spend at least 20 seconds looking at something at least 20 feet away. Also make sure monitors are positioned at a distance that makes it easiest for you to see clearly.
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Date Last Reviewed: October 17, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD