Smiling woman working at desk

Tips For Staying Healthy When You Work At A Desk All Day

You’ve finally gotten the job of your dreams. The pay is great, your coworkers are lovely, you have your own office with a great view, upholstered chairs, and a mahogany desk with a table lamp. Your mother tells you to quit; she says the job is way too dangerous. “Dangerous?” you say,” How is it dangerous? All I have to do is sit at a desk all day!”

Although it hardly seems worthy of a daredevil, sitting for hours has proven to be harmful, and even deadly, over time. So your mother may be right, after all. Termed “the new smoking” (rather fatalistically), extended periods of time sitting still have been linked in studies to a greater risk of metabolic syndrome, and health problems known to cause heart disease, as well as diabetes. So, If quitting your job is not a realistic option, here are a number of suggestions to keep health risk or a minimum.

The Exercise Break
Even if you work out regularly, it may not be enough to prevent you from becoming a statistic. According to Katy Bowman, biomechanics expert, “If you’re sitting eight to 12 hours a day and you’re taking a one-hour yoga class, it’s not enough.” She recommends short breaks to move around at regular intervals as a better idea.

Another way of avoiding stress and strain? Stand up straight! Cr. Julie Cote, Ph.D. recommends exercise programs like pilates, which focus on posture and range of motion, but adds, “One seven-week program is not going to cure you forever.”

Bowman recommends on the job training. “Even if you cross your leg while you’re sitting on the chair and lean forward, that’s a hip opener… You can cross a leg, you can spinal twist, you can stretch your calf, you can stand up.”

Woman working

Workstation Adjustments
If your employer offers the option, in-house ergonomic programs are available. These programs will send a therapist to your location of employment to come to your desk and assess you. They will suggest personalized exercises, such as moving your head to avoid neck strain, or making adjustments such as tilting your computer monitor.

The therapist may also adjust your chair to offer better lumbar support. Sit stand stools which allow sitting and leaning are also a good option, as are balance balls. Keeping chair seats angled forward can hold the back in a healthier position.

Walkstation
If you’re willing to go high-tech, you can invest in a Walkstation, which is a low speed treadmill with a desk attached. If you’re more a DIY type, there are several online bloggers ready to offer advice on building your own.

Although this idea may seem appealing, Dr. Joseph Henry, senior director of health and well-being had this to say. “We thought it might send the message that you’re not to leave your desk, you’re chained to your desk. We’d rather they (the employees) actually got up from their desks and take a break from their work instead of being stuck at their desk all day.” Henry prefers encouraging employee health by allowing them to request an exercise ball to sit on and to use the companies 150 acre campus for walks and walking meetings.

Either way, it seems the message is clear, the body is made to move and it’s your job to move it.

How do you feel about movement in the office? What’s your take on the Walkstation? Is it the wave of the future or should we wave it good-bye?

Girl is having neck and back pain during working at the desk

Avoiding Neck And Back Pain At Your Desk

Does this sound familiar? You have been sitting at your desk at work in the same position for what seems to have been forever. All of a sudden you move, and then you hear them. As if on cue, your cervical vertebra from C2-C7 start their cranky chorus. As you gently shift, popping and cracking sounds emit from the bottom of your skull all the way down your spine, leaving you drained. Mother always told us to sit up straight, but after hours in front of a computer screen, your posture may not be the first things on your minds. Imbalance in your back and neck may lead to discomfort and, while some may swear by joint cracking, here are some options that may be a bit more civilized.

  • Desk Set Up
    The people at your office should provide you with a comfortable chair and well-placed keyboard tray. The positioning of screens, printers, and the mouse should all be considered and adjusted appropriately to the worker. For employees suffering from work related back and neck pain, some employers will offer standing desks, or will purchase desktop converters that enable the employee to switch between a standing and sitting desk as the day progresses.
  • Sitting Position
    When you are sitting at your desk, make sure your feet are flat on the floor and that your seat allows your thighs to slightly angle downward. This will concentrate your weight on your “sitting bones” and not your lower back and shoulders.
  • Keyboard Tray
    Make sure that when you aren’t forced to slump when you touch the keys. The keyboard should be elevated so that your shoulders don’t sag when your elbows are bent at a 90 degree angle. If the tray is not adjustable, put the keyboard on your desk. In addition, make sure the mouse and drafting pad is at the same height as the keyboard.
  • Adjusting Your Monitor
    The bottom of your computer monitor should be aligned to your chin. Computer monitors tend to be too low, leading to the inevitable hunch. You may want to adjust the screen slightly depending on the height of the monitor. Just make sure you can look straight at your screen.
  • Limit Your Use Of Cell Phones And Emails
    You are more likely to develop upper back and neck pain when using a tablet or cell phone answer emails. If you want the best results for maintaining good posture, stick to working with an actual computer.
  • Walk Around
    Get up and stretch every half hour or so. If you are the type that gets very absorbed in your work, you may want to set an alarm clock to remind you that it’s time to move. Remember that discomfort can have a negative effect on the quality of work, so take one for the team and take a moment to uncoil.
Woman having back pain

The Connection Between Your Feet and Back Pain

Whether you sang “Dem Bones” or “The Skeleton Dance,” there is a good chance that at some point in your life you sang a song about how the bones in your body are all connected, but at the time, it probably meant little to you. Your body truly is built of connected bones, systems, tissues, nerves and cells that keep you breathing, eating and moving. When you have pain in one area of your body, but you don’t remember injuring that part of your body, you may be experiencing what is known as radiating pain. Your back and your feet are quite a bit more connected than you may think, and the foot pain you feel may have nothing to do with your foot, just as the back pain you experience may have nothing to do with your back.

Orthotics
The field of foot care is expanding, and one of the most buzzed-about areas of medical care for the feet is orthotics. Once associated with less than fashionable shoes, orthotics has embraced new technological advances, and now you can wear foot correcting devices without anyone even knowing. Custom-made insoles are now being widely used to treat a variety of abnormalities and deformities of the feet.

Why Orthotics?
Your feet have 26 bones and 33 joints, all of which work constantly to provide your entire body with support. You may not pay much attention to them, but you might want to start. “Feet are fairly delicate structures, damage may be painless in the foot but felt elsewhere in the body,” says British podiatrist, Simon Costain of the Gait and Posture Centre. One of the most common foot conditions is flat feet, or collapsed foot arches. Flat feet can be caused by genetics or by the weakening of your feet muscles due to things like wearing heels or weight gain. You may feel little to no pain in your feet when you have flat feet – in fact, you may not even know you do have flat feet – but you may experience pain in other areas of your body like your lower back or knees.

Orthotics help correct problems, relieving pain in both your back and your feet, and they improve your gait as well. This is important because a shift in your foot while standing or walking may be all it takes to change the alignment of your spine, which can result in the tightening of muscles in your legs, buttocks and back. Muscle tightening may continue to elicit back pain, and even if you don’t feel a thing on your feet, they could be the culprit. True orthotics are custom-made and provided by a medical professional, but there are off-the-shelf alternatives as well.

Because your feet take such a beating on a daily basis, it’s important to pay attention to them and give them the care they deserve. Left untreated, foot problems can create pain elsewhere in the body, particularly in the lower back. With the help of your doctor and orthotics, you could be able to completely correct your gait and experience relief from pain.