Physical Therapy & Office Ergonomics Can Prevent Neck and Back Pain for Office Workers

With more and more office workers, spending hours in front of a computer, musculoskeletal injuries related to faulty posture, muscle fatigue and strain in back and neck have become very common. To avoid this, it is of utmost importance to set up your body in the best position. Learn how physical therapy and ergonomics can prevent neck and back pain for office workers

Office workers usually sit on an office chair for prolonged periods. It is also not uncommon for them to slouch down or to lean forward while sitting on the chair. Research has clearly proved that this kind of partial immobilization causes low-back pain and chronic neck pain. In fact, incorrect sitting position in particular adds a huge amount of pressure to spinal discs, back muscles and ligaments and with time it can worsen neck and back pain and can even damage the spinal structure altogether.

Of course; chronic and recurrent neck pain is devastating and the symptoms such as shoulder pain, upper-back, scapula pain and headaches along with stiff joints, tight neck muscles make even the simplest activity painful for the office workers. As things stand now; with more and more office workers, spending hours in front of a computer, musculoskeletal injuries related to faulty posture, muscle fatigue and strain in back and neck have become very common. To avoid this, it is of utmost importance to set up your body in the best position. Align your spine in a neutral position to help align the body muscles in their most efficient way to reduce the stress on the muscles tendons and on the overall skeletal system.

Before we delve further to learn about correct posture and how physical therapy may help let us first understand the problem to the core

Description of the Problem

Modern office jobs often expose workers to repetitive motions and sustained postures, which stand as the leading causes of work-related shoulder, neck and back pain.

Medically speaking; office workers with neck pain usually demonstrate prolonged and excessive flexor muscle activity of the head, while their range of motion at the neck remains limited. From corporate professionals to industry workers, anybody can be a victim of these workplace risk factors. Activities may encompass — prolonged bent posture in front of the computer, carrying heavy weights, repetition of same or similar task over long period can cause stress and strain on the neck and back muscle.

Studies have also shown people with neck pain demonstrate position sense abnormalities, pro — prioception disturbances, balance deficits and altered eye movement control.

Dealing with the Problem

Muscular disorders at the workplace can surely be taken control of. It has been well established that head repositioning is the ultimate way to control this prolonged muscle activity of the deep flexors of the head. Tailored exercise along with massage and physical therapy done by an experienced physical therapist can correct all those inappropriate postural behaviors. Ergonomics, better known for safe work environment with suitable surrounding also helps in dealing with the issue.

Office ergonomics — what’s that anyway?

Ergonomics is the science and art of studying human work. Yes, it studies the typical environment you work in and the tools that you use for doing your job.

Simply put; the goal of office ergonomics is to set up the workplace in a way that it fits your musculoskeletal demand.

With an ergonomic workstation you may be

  • Less likely to have headaches and eyestrains
  • Reduce back pain, shoulder and neck pain
  • Prevent tendon problems, which are otherwise linked to doing repetitive tasks

Still the pertinent question hangs — Why at all your work area should be ergonomic?

To put it simply; office ergonomics help you in becoming rather comfortable at work. It lowers the risk of muscle stress and injury caused by repetitive tasks and faulty sitting position.

Office ergonomics is thus the ultimate tool that helps in reducing the risk of work related injury. Let’s face the fact — you are more at the risk of work injuries when you force yourself to conform to a particular job style which is beyond your physical limitations. This is where the principle of office ergonomics comes into play. Applying the ergonomic principles to your office work thus enhances your performance and at the same time improves your productivity.

Office ergonomics thus centers on the things that are set up in your office work station. It includes –

  • Your workstation setup
  • How you sit
  • How long you sit in one position
  • How you perform certain tasks
  • How you make the movements
  • Tools you use to do your job and more..

As briefed earlier, work-related musculoskeletal disorders may develop and can cause severe injuries to the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels. The common symptoms thus include but not limited to pain, fatigue, discomfort, stiffness, swelling, numbness and tingling sensation.

Yes, it is therefore important to identify these symptoms and apply ergonomic principles to your workplace.

Here are a few important ergonomic improvements, which you may need to implement to make your work environment safe

Try and maintain comfortable sitting posture. For the uninitiated; comfortable posture is typically the sitting posture in which the joints are naturally aligned. This sitting posture reduces the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders.

Change your sitting posture in every 15 minutes. This is important. Even a slightest change will do. For instance; you can make slight changes in your chair height, or you can lean forward or lean back. You may also stand up, stretch or walk for 1/2 minutes after every hour.

Sit in a neutral posture when working on computer. Below are a few significant components of neutral sitting position

  • Your head level should be straight or slightly tilted downward when working
  • Your shoulders should be in relaxed position
  • Your elbows should be closer to both sides of your body
  • Your chair’s back rest should support your lower back
  • Place your wrist straight while working
  • Keep your knees at the same level as your hips
  • Keep the feet slightly out in front of your knees

Avoid eye strain when viewing computer monitor. Below are a few common problems seen amongst the computer users -

  • Itchy eyes or dry eyes mostly happen when we blink less often. Lower your monitor slightly to prevent dry eyes. Also make sure that the building’s ventilation fans don’t blow straight over you
  • Place the monitor at proper height and at the proper distance to prevent eye strain.
  • Keep your monitor at a distance between 18 and 30 inches from your eyes.
  • Also; keep the monitor at a right angle to light sources

Repetitive tasks, continuous sitting posture and using keyboard for repetitive hours lead to poor blood circulation. This further paves the way for

  • Muscle resilience
  • Muscle sprains
  • Lack of strength and more

Often taking a simple break from your task can do wonder. Take micro breaks and stay energetic to prevent muscle stress and sprains. Physical therapy in Orange County can help to address all of the work related injuries. The experienced physical therapists will be able to suggest modifications with respect to your workplace ergonomics. They help with ideas, pain relief exercises and provide you with other suggestions for improvement.

A certified and experienced physical therapist will help reduce pain, muscle sprain and inflammation. He will also help in improving posture and in increasing muscle strength to prevent further injury.