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Sitting Pretty: How to Prevent Pain at Work

Sitting PrettyIf you’re like most Americans, you spend about 2,000 hours at work every year. That’s a lot of time spent sitting. And if you’re sitting at a computer for most of those hours, you may have sore wrists and an aching back to show for it.

“Our bodies are not meant to be sitting in the same position for eight or nine hours per day,” explains Eric Zabat, MD, sports medicine physician at Paoli Hospital. “To repeat that pattern every day for months and years at a time…it begins to take a toll on your body. Musculoskeletal injuries are common complaints for office-bound workers.”

Below, Dr. Zabat offers tips for ways to lessen or relieve pain during your workday.

Take time to stretch
The first and most important way to lessen pain at work is to take time to stretch during the day. You don’t have to take a walk around the office, just be out of your chair and find a space to lean back, stretch, slowly roll your neck or shoulders, and take a few deep breaths. Don’t forget a few rotations of the risk and wiggling your fingers—these can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.

Practice good posture
Sitting up straight is good for your back, shoulders, and neck, but that’s not all you need to do to reap the benefits. Remember to keep your feet planted flat on the floor, thighs parallel to the ground, and your shoulders relaxed. Posture isn’t just about your back—it’s about your body.

Keep your hands happy
Your wrists and hands do a lot of work during the day, but many desk-bound workers suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) as a result. Look for accessories like a wrist support pad for your keyboard and a computer mouse that doesn’t involve too much movement or force.

Get on a roll
Foam rollers have been touted as a helpful accessory in the fitness world, but they can also be an aid for lower back pain. Keep a small foam roller at work to help relieve lower back pain and tight muscles.

In addition to these tips, Dr. Zabat says to remember a basic rule: follow directions.

“Most desk equipment, like chairs and keyboards, come with a manual that outline how to use them properly to prevent pain,” he explains. “Those manuals usually have extra information about how to adapt the equipment to be the most comfortable for you.”

If trying these tips still hasn’t helped to alleviate your pain, talk to your doctor about treatment options. You may have chronic pain. For more information on pain management or other musculoskeletal injuries, or to make an appointment with Dr. Zabat or another Main Line Health physician in your area, visit our website.

How healthy is your office? Bryn Mawr RehabWorks offers an ergonomic assessment with a doctor’s prescription. The assessment looks at posture, seating, computer positioning, and overall workplace organization. Learn more by calling 484.596.5686. To learn more about our orthopedics program or to make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist, visit the Main Line Health website.

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