As the pandemic stretches on, so does the work from home routine. But just because you’re at home and more comfortable doesn’t mean your body might be suffering less. Staying in one position for the better part of the day has its consequences, both in the short-term and long-term. We’ve compiled a list of body pains and injuries you can get from desk work, as well as tips on how to alleviate them. We also give you guidelines on how to make your home office more ergonomic.
Secretaries, court stenographers, and anyone who has to type a lot–especially at high speeds–are prone to wrist injuries. The most common type of wrist injury is carpal tunnel syndrome (CPS). It can happen as a result of repetitive wrist motions that put excessive pressure on your median nerve. This is one of the main nerves of the forearm, and it passes through the carpal tunnel in our wrists. CPS can also occur from the existence of other conditions that cause swelling or pressure around the median nerve. These include pregnancy, obesity, and arthritis.
CPS symptoms include tingling and numbness in your hand. You might experience difficulty holding things and a tingling sensation along your arm.
To alleviate and prevent CPS, take short, frequent breaks from typing or other repetitive wrist motions. Position your keyboard or laptop so that pressure on your wrist while you’re working is minimized. If you continue to experience CPS symptoms, consult your doctor for other solutions.
Because of the need to conduct Zoom meetings and other online gatherings, eye strain is bound to happen to many of us. Eye strain often involves headaches, blurry vision, and dry eyes. Many people tend to distort their postures to try to overcome eye strain, and experience neck and back pains as a result.
Digital eye strain can be linked to a number of different causes. One of them is the lighting in your work area. The ideal workspace lighting should hit your computer screen at a sideways angle. Light sources coming from above or behind you can produce a glare on your screen. Light sources ahead of you, such as a bright window, can put more strain on your eyes. If glare continues to be a problem, invest in an anti-glare screen protector for your monitor.
As with other office work body pains, take breaks every 20 minutes. Rest your eyes on a distant point to help them refocus. Make it a habit to blink more frequently to avoid developing dry eye syndrome.
Back and neck pain
Back and neck pain are perhaps the most prevalent of desk work discomforts. It’s easy to forget your posture when you spend most of the day seated at a desk. See to it that your chair offers you lower back support. The ideal posture should allow you to lean back in your chair as you work. If you’re lacking in lower back support, put a pillow or cushion on your backrest.
But sometimes, the issue with your posture has more to do with your desk or chair. Oftentimes, your screen might be too low, prompting you to hunch over. There are even some who work with their screen facing them diagonally, causing them neck pain.
Keep your screen straight ahead and at eye level as much as possible. There should be no need for you to look down or look up at your screen. If your table isn’t high enough, place your device on a stack of books or on an adjustable riser. If you’re working with a laptop and have to elevate it, use a separate keyboard and mouse to type and click without strain.
When reading off a device, zoom in, or adjust your font sizes as needed to avoid having to lean into your monitor. When reading physical copies of documents, do so with a straight neck. You can do this by perching them on a stand. During your breaks, stretch and curl your back and twist your head around a few times to stretch your neck.
Sitting for extended periods can shorten our hip flexors, limiting hip mobility and causing hip pain. Tight hips can also contribute to lower back pain.
To alleviate tight hips, do some lunges during your breaks. Lunge forward on a bent leg, and straighten the leg that’s behind you. Hold for 15-30 seconds and switch sides.
Dead butt syndrome
Just as bedridden patients often get bedsores, desk workers are prone to gluteal amnesia–also known as Dead Butt Syndrome (DBS). The main symptom for DBS is numbness or even soreness in your gluteus medius, one of the main muscles in your buttocks. Prolonged sitting weakens the gluteus medius, and hinders its ability to support your hips and lower back.
During your breaks, do some exercises that engage your glutes. These can be as simple as doing squats or squeezing your buttocks a few times.
For every strain and injury we’ve listed, we recommended breaks and exercises to target the area. So make sure to take those short, frequent breaks. They’re necessary for productivity and will give you some time to be away from your desk and screen. During these breaks, make sure to work your glutes, wrist, back, and neck. Rest your eyes by focusing on a distant point. Make the necessary adjustments to make your workspace more ergonomic. Practice all these, and your body will thank you for it by not giving you more inconveniences.