Most People can expect to experience some neck pain in their lifetime. It is not always possible to identify the exact cause of neck pain but 99% of the time it is not serious and for the majority of people it should not seriously interfere with normal activities. I see a consistent trend each week of clients suffering with neck, upper back and shoulder pain. Delving further into their subjective assessment it is clear the connection between time spent at the desk and various musculoskeletal issues.
Why is this important?
Musculoskeletal injuries (MSI) account for 29% of all workplace injuries and illnesses requiring time away from work – Back Injuries account for half of all MSI's according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics. Correct workplace ergonomics results in a reduction of work-related injuries, increased worker productivity and work quality and reduced absenteeism.
I have compiled some useful tips and exercises to help with sedentary workers prevent and cope with tightness and pain in the neck and upper back area -
- Avoid prolonged sitting. A statistic that really caught my attention recently is that “ Sitting 6+ hours per day makes you up to 40% likelier to die within 15 years than someone who sits less than 3 hours”. This is due to the link between prolonged sitting and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
- An easy way to prevent prolonged sitting is to set a silent alarm/reminder on your smartphone to go off every 30 minutes. It may not be possible to get up every time the alarm goes off, but it can be a good reminder that you’ve been sitting for quite a while, especially if you skip the alarm a few times in a row. The alarm can help you stay accountable to yourself, making sure you aren’t compromising your health for your work.
- Lunchtime stroll – turn a working lunch into a walking lunch! Look for opportunities to stand over sitting – standing chair instead of a sitting chair. Take the stairs over the lift and conduct meetings on the move.
- At the desk – sit with your lower back well supported. If you spend a lot of time working at a computer it is a good idea to have your workstation assessed to ensure it suits you. If you frequently use a phone throughout the day it may be helpful to use a head-set.
Below are some exercises that are easy to perform at your desk and can help reduce neck and back pain in work -
Shoulder Squeeze - 2 sets x 15 sec hold
Side Flexion - 2 sets x 15 sec hold both directions
Rotation - 2 sets x 15 sec hold both directions
Flexion - 2 sets x 15 sec hold
Extension - 2 sets x 15 sec hold
The above exercises should take no longer than 5 minutes to complete and ideally to be done 2-3 times daily. Not asking much considering we are averaging 8 hours per day at the desk!
Chartered Physiotherapists have specialist knowledge in the field of work related injury management. A Chartered Physiotherapist is an integral member of a team dealing with prevention and treatment of work related musculoskeletal disorders and the evaluation of an individual’s capacity to work at a given job. If you need advice, a physiotherapy assessment or feel your business could learn more about Workplace Ergonomics, contact our Chartered Physiotherapist Eric @ firstname.lastname@example.org