Take Care of Your Posture at Work

8 March 2012

How Does Office Work Cause Pain and Headaches?

 

Neck, upper back and shoulder pain, as well as headaches, are extremely common in office workers. Some studies suggest as many of 2 in 3 office workers suffer from these complaints, which is much higher than the rest of the population.

 

When we sit at a computer for prolonged periods our muscles fatigue quickly as we are using the muscle in a static position and the blood flow is reduced, meaning muscles don’t receive enough nutrients to fuel them. Similarly, this happens in repetitive tasks due to the high repeated demands. This results in increased muscle tension and trigger points- sensitive points in the muscle that cause pain, either locally or referred to other areas.

 

Headaches can be caused by a number of factors with cervicogenic headaches (those caused by the neck joints or surrounding muscles) thought to represent at least 1 in 5 headaches. Regularly people will complain of a tension headache which also come from the neck and trigger points/tension in surrounding muscles. These headaches arise as irritation of the muscles and joints in the area hypersensitise a part of the brain that then creates the feeling of headaches.

 

While most people associate low back pain with an activity such as lifting, it is often the way and length of time people sit that is ultimately the cause of the pain. Prolonged pressure of the joints/discs, particularly in slouched positions, causes irritation and inflammation to build which then can lead to pain that may build gradually, be felt the next day or have a sudden onset when doing these other activities.

 

Poor posture increases strain in the muscles and joints of the spine and increases the likelihood of the above problems. It is suggested that for every inch your head is further forward than the ideal posture, approximately 4.5kg of load is added to the muscles that support it. Therefore those muscles will tire much faster and increase discomfort. Also, this position places the upper neck joints in a constantly extended position increasing the irritation and stiffness that will develop in those joints. Setting up your workstation to encourage good posture with relaxed muscles is one of the most important things you can do to help prevent these issues.

 

For more info on how to set up your computer to maintain a good posture click here.

For useful exercises to help further reduce fatigue in muscles click here.

For details on how this is all relevant in laptop use, click here.