Back pain is a common ailment for many of us! For the majority, a lot of our work life entails us operating a computer at a desk. Time spent sitting at a desk can vary from briefly sitting at the reception in a hotel to sitting all day at your work desk from the minute you arrive up until you leave, with minimal breaks in between. For a lot of us, increasing the time that we are away from our desks isn’t actually a variable that we are able to change. But if you could, what exactly would extend periods of resting/ taking a break away from your computer actually do? And how can we try to increase these periods away from our desks without increasing our workload or decreasing our work productivity?
As an osteopathy practice in Oxford, we frequently see people with back pain and back problems. Sitting at a desk for long periods can not only aggravate existing problems but develop new ones. Prolonged periods of being inactive can cause the spine to become much less mobile. When frequently moving around, the soft discs in between our vertebrae expand and also contract like sponges, absorbing new blood as well as nutrients. Throughout long periods of inactivity, the discs can end up being compressed and more congested and the collagen can tighten around the ligaments impacting the spines mobility and leaving the discs vulnerable to injury. Discs can become more prone to herniate and muscles more susceptible to tightness. A very common issue with desk-based workers is the tightening of the main hip flexor muscle, psoas major, which travels from the top of the hip region through the abdominal area and attaches on to the vertebrae and discs of the lumbar spine, when this tightens through contraction of being seated this can pull on the spinal column reducing mobility and causing lower back pain and increasing the chances of disc herniation.
When you are sat at a desk there are many influencing factors which can contribute to you having poor posture, resulting in neck pain. Whether you are positioned incorrectly at your desk by the screen height being too low or high, or if your chair is at the incorrect height, all these factors will surely increase the likelihood of you experiencing some desk-based pain related symptoms. Perhaps you talk on the phone a lot and use your neck to hold the phone whilst typing, prolonged durations of being in these positions can place unnecessary stress on the cervical spine and vertebrae, increasing tightness and discomfort. Through weeks or years, this can result in pain across the top of the shoulders, base of the neck, down either side of the spine in the mid- back and into the lower back. Desk related pain is often worse at the end of the day and you may even begin to suffer with sciatica or even headaches if left untreated.
Ideally, when you go to your desk, you ought to attempt to rest with your feet level on the flooring, relax your shoulders and maintain your arms near your side. Bend your joints by 90 ° and if you can, obtain some support for your lumbar spine. Think proactively, do you really need to email a colleague on the next level up, could you walk up there and talk to him in person instead? Instead of filling up a litre bottle of water and leaving on your desk, take a small cup and get up regularly to keep your glass topped up. Take the stairs instead of the lift, set your phone to beep every 30- 60 minutes and get up and move around and stretch or make yourself a hot drink and do some ankle and hip circles whilst you wait! You’ll be surprised at just how easy it is to increase your activity levels even when you have a static desk-based job, you just have to think outside of the box!
If you find that you have tried to increase your activity levels at work and you have tried to ensure that you have the best desk set up possible and you are still experiencing pain, then give Sophie a call at Kennington Osteopathic Practice in Oxford. Sophie and her team are experienced osteopaths in Oxford and are available to help resolve your pain and discomfort. Call Sophie on 07787 404419 or email [email protected]