At Physio AUS, many of the cases we treat are athletes, tradies and people recovering from injury – in other words, people who either spend a lot of time either using their bodies or who need physical therapy.
So you’d think office workers would be safe, right?
While office workers aren’t so much subject to problems such as injury or overuse (generally speaking), they do face plenty of their own unique challenges.
Spending most of your day seated can lead to problems – here are just some of of the most common ones our physiotherapist in Elwood has treated over the years.
The dangers of spending too much time seated
When your muscles are underused, you may experience a wide range of negative consequences (which we’ve talked about before).
Here’s a quick recap of the bigger ones…
Loss of muscle strength
That’s because low activity can lead to muscle degeneration.
And unfortunately, your muscles aren’t exactly something you can live without!
In particular, your muscles are responsible for holding you up and facilitating movement.
Needless to say, if your muscles aren’t up to the task, you may end up experiencing a host of musculoskeletal pains and problems.
If you work at a desk, you’ll know how tempting it can be to slouch or lean all the way back.
However, with the amount of time you spend at work, this can quickly turn into slouching becoming your default position.
There is a connection between posture and brain function which we’ll define in a nutshell: powerful posture = powerful brain activity.
Muscle and lower back pain
It’s impossible not to slouch in your chair – and for short period of time this is actually no big deal.
However, this position is a position of high lumbar spine compression and can be uncomfortable for some people experiencing discogenic problems.
That’s because the human spine is designed to sit in a gentle “S” shape – this is the optimum way of distributing weight.
When your back isn’t in this optimum position, you cause increase stress on certain parts of your body which can lead to muscle and lower back pain in some instances.
The problem: you’re sitting around too much
“Use it or lose it.”
This short, four word sentence can be used to describe any number of things. However, it’s especially apt when it comes to your body!
Needless to say, spending most of your day is spent sitting or otherwise being inactive can lead to several problems.
One of the biggest ones is ‘mushy’ muscles.
Your muscles grow weak when they aren’t engaged. And since your muscles are responsible for keeping you upright and facilitating movement, you may experience a host of problems as the years pass:
- Poor balance
- Reduced range of motion
Luckily, the fix is actually quite simple…
The solution: stay active
Like we mentioned above, inactivity often leads to weak muscles.
The best way to fight back against this? To stay active!
We don’t mean using your lunch break to go out for a walk (though that certainly helps too) – but even little things can have a big difference.
That can include simple activities such as:
- Getting up and strolling around once an hour
- Parking your car further away or hopping off one stop earlier on the tram
- Using a standing desk
- Swapping your office chair for a gym ball
- Engaging in subtle yet effective office exercises
Each of these activities keep your muscles engaged throughout the day, which may reduce your risk of future muscle problems.
The problem: you aren’t looking after your spine
Anyone who spends a lot of time sitting knows that it’s hard to sit upright the entire time.
It’s easy to slip into a more relaxed, almost slouching position. Next thing you know, you’re not really sitting anymore, but almost lying down in your chair!
While it may be comfy, over long periods of time, this can result in postural problems.
The spine is malleable, and over time this can lead to that slouched over position becoming the new default.
It becomes harder for you to achieve great biomechanics throughout the rest of your daily activity due to habit.
The solution: protect your posture
It’s hard to keep your back straight the entire day – especially when so many modern devices require us to lean over or crane our heads forwards.
However, there are a couple of tools you can use to maintain your natural posture:
- Lumbar supports that you can attach to your chair that helps maintain that gentle S-shape we mentioned earlier
- Ensure your feet are sitting flat on the floor – if they dangle, consider a foot rest
- A high-quality office chair that allows you to adjust the height, angle, and armrests
Each of these tools encourages your spine back into its natural position, protecting you from posture problems and the associated back pains.
The problem: cradling your phone
We’ve all been there.
You’ve got somebody on the phone, but you can’t spare any hands to hold the handset up.
So, you put your phone between your ear and shoulder, freeing up your hands without having to put your caller on hold.
It’s a masterstroke in multitasking. The problem? The human body wasn’t designed to hold that position for any amount of time!
Does your job require you to field a lot of phone calls? Have you made a habit of going “hands-free” and using your shoulder to hold your phone up?
If so, you could be placing significant strain on your muscles and other soft tissues, leading to neck stiffness and pain.
Additionally, holding this position may lead to muscle imbalances between the left and right shoulders.
The solution: just don’t do it!
It’s really as simple as that.
Headsets are cheap nowadays, and can be found in just about any office supplies shop.
If your phone accepts external headsets, we recommend getting one. It’s not a big investment, but it can save you a lot of pain – literally!
Need a physiotherapist in Elwood?
If you ask us, everyone can benefit from physiotherapy – and that includes office workers.
Here’s how the Physio AUS process works:
- We open with an in-depth assessment of your unique pains, aches and circumstances, which we use to diagnose and prescribe the optimum course of action
- Using this information, we prescribe a unique treatment programme that combines exercises, stretches, physical aids and routine adjustments
- Our work doesn’t stop once your problems subside – if needed, we create ongoing treatments that ensure you continue to enjoy a pain-free life