While our lives have become more chaotic and stressful, they have also become increasingly sedentary. The average person today spends half of their day sitting.
Since 1950, sedentary jobs have increased by 83%, and physically active jobs now make up less than 20% of the workforce. But the inherent problem isn’t the desk job itself; it’s that people are sitting too much and moving too little.
A person can be perfectly healthy while working a desk job as long as they balance their day with a lot of movement and physical activity in between stretches of sitting.
So, what are some of the most common desk job-related ailments people suffer from today, and how can you treat and prevent them?
The ailments or injuries a person suffers as a result of sitting too much at their desk can vary, but there do tend to be patterns with these kinds of jobs. Below are the top six ailments office workers tend to suffer from the most.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a type of repetitive stress injury that results from hands and wrists being strained all day while typing on a computer. The position, or angle, the hands, wrists, and even fingers constantly bend at while working on a computer puts excessive strain on them.
This can end up causing pain, burning, tingling, numbness, and even itching in the fingers or palms. To treat carpal tunnel syndrome, you can wear a supportive wrist brace, use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse, and stretch and rest your hands and wrists throughout the day.
Back pain is another extremely common ailment suffered by those with desk jobs, particularly lower back pain. This is also considered a repetitive stress injury from sitting in one position for long periods of time. It can also result from bad posture while sitting or sitting on a chair that is not supportive.
To treat lower back pain, you need to move your body more throughout the day and maintain a better posture while you work. Get up and move around or stretch every 20 to 30 minutes. And when you do sit, make sure you are sitting up staring or in a way that keeps your spine in alignment — do not slouch forward. You can also treat the problem by investing in a more ergonomic seat with lumbar support.
Like carpal tunnel syndrome and lower back pain, tennis elbow is another common repetitive stress injury that occurs in the workplace. Also known as Epicondylitis, this ailment occurs when the tendons in the elbow become strained.
Tennis elbow most often occurs with desk jobs as a result of poor mouse usage. Extending the arm and making small repetitive movements with a computer mouse can result in tiny tears in the muscles and tendons of the elbow, which will eventually lead to pain.
You can treat this condition similarly to how you would treat carpal tunnel syndrome by using a brace that keeps the wrist better supported and in a more natural position and by using an ergonomic mouse. You can also place a support under the wrist or forearm to help the wrist and arm sit in a more natural position.
If you are suffering from frequent headaches while you work, as well as watery, blurry, or burning eyes, you may have eye strain. Our eyes were not meant to stare at computer screens all day, and doing so can do significant damage to our eyesight over time.
To treat eye strain, you can download apps that warm and dim the light of your computer screen and give your eyes a break every 20 minutes. If this doesn’t help, you may need glasses. And if glasses aren’t helping or if you would prefer not to wear them, laser eye surgery is an option.
Neck injuries from poor posture while working on a computer are also common in the workplace. Specifically, something called “tech neck” is becoming increasingly common among people who sit all day on their computers and on their phones.
This injury occurs when the head and neck are strained forward and bent at an angle for long periods throughout the day. While in this position, the muscles in the back of the neck have to contract to support the head, which causes them to become sore, tired, and strained.
To treat tech neck, it is actually not advised to maintain and perfectly straight posture. Instead, doctors recommend a slightly reclined position of 25 to 30 degrees with the head slightly tilted back as well. This allows the neck to be in a more relaxed position instead of constantly straining to support the head.
Sitting for extended periods can also lead to poor circulation. To function properly, the body needs a healthy circulation of blood and oxygen, but when you are stagnant for long periods, it reduces the flow of these things, which can lead to pain and even swelling.
Sedentary lifestyles can also affect your vein health. Low blood flow can lead to plaque, calcium, and cholesterol building up in the veins and bloodstream. Poor circulation of blood can also lead to vein disease, like spider veins or vasculitis.
Treatment options for circulation issues and vein disease can include simply changing your lifestyle and moving your body more throughout the day. Or, if the issue becomes more serious, you may need more invasive treatments, like surgery or laser therapy.
The best way to prevent the above ailments and other desk job-related injuries is to keep your body moving throughout the day. It doesn’t help to just exercise once you get home from work; you need to constantly keep your body moving over the course of the entire day to prevent sitting for long stretches of time.
Constantly sitting for more than just 20 minutes at a time can result in poor health. So every 20 to 30 minutes, you should be getting up and moving your body, even if just for a couple of minutes.
When you do get up, stretch your body, paying close attention to the areas listed above that most often become strained while sitting at a desk. You can also do some easy desk-friendly workouts and exercises, like squats, calf raises, and push-ups.
Finally, don’t forget about giving your brain a break as well. Mental strain is also common with stressful office jobs. So it’s important to prioritize your mental health when working as well as your physical health.
Author Bio: Katie Brenneman is a passionate writer specializing in lifestyle, business, education, and fitness-related content. When she isn’t writing, you can find her with her nose buried in a book or hiking with her dog, Charlie. To connect with Katie, you can follow her on Twitter