Have achy joints?

You think that nagging ache is no big deal at first, but it doesn’t go away. We try to ignore it by adjusting our posture so our back doesn’t hurt, buying gaming wrists supports, or Pain is a logical reason for us to believe something is wrong but these low-intense aches that we experience usually go ignored. It then becomes chronic and conservative treatments such as physical therapy may not be able to help such as in the case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

The best thing you can do if something hurts is see a medical professional to diagnosis and check you out. This information below is meant for prevention of potential injuries and as work-arounds. Chronic injuries rarely spontaneously occur, so pay attention to those very dull aches, lack of sensations, and other ‘abnormal’ feelings that may occur that may you think “something may not be right..”

 

What Causes Work Injuries?

Many of the injuries experienced by people who sit down most of the day can be simply attributed to 1) lack of movement variation 2) stress. Feel free to ignore this info if you frolic your way to work, enjoy yourself for 8 hours in a low-stress environment, then frolic home.

Research has found the following to correlate with work injuries: 1

  • Repetitive tasks
  • Awkward and/or sustained positions
    • Continuous keyboard and mouse use
    • Overhead work
  • Work stress
    • High job demand with low autonomy was associated with neck and shoulder disorders
  • Body mass index, an indirect measure of body composition, is a risk factor for carpal tunnel syndrome

Our careers require more mental performance than physical. This degrades our physical well-being and worsens our ability to move properly. A lower quality of movement was shown to be correlated with a higher body mass index, older age, and lower physical activity level.2 As the saying goes: “Use it or lose it.” This is why I recommend Morning Music Movement (M3) where you move the body every morning through planes and ranges of motion that you wouldn’t typically go through in a typical day. This will energize you, make your body feel looser, and counter the lack of movement variation we encounter through our day.

To provide more specifics, I have detailed the various regions of the body, what is the typical complaint, and what you can do to prevent these injuries from occurring. These are only suggestions if you believe your physical health may be compromised. It’s best to incorporate ALL of these because each body-region can influence each other (e.g. upper back posture can affect the shoulder, which can affect the elbow, which can affect the wrist). Please remember, the goal is to be pain-free so do NOT do anything that causes or increases pain.

 

Neck & Shoulders

The shoulder and neck region is one of the most complex areas because it’s heavily influenced by upper-back posture and the muscles of the shoulder blades.

[slouching with shoulder blade positioning / upright w/ shoulder blade positioning]

An achy neck can usually occur alongside shoulder pain and headaches and can come from1,3:

  • Prolonged seated work
  • Low task variation
  • Repetitive work
  • Working with cervical spine flexion for prolonged periods
  • Poor lighting environment
  • Stress
  • Lack of autonomy
  • Poor work satisfaction

Sound like a typical day?

This may also be compounded with the time we spend on our phones. Text Neck (Also goes by Tech Neck) is neck and upper-back ache/pain that is associated with high phone usage.4 This is due to having the neck bent at 15-60 degrees which can cause neck strain if performed for a prolonged period.4 In short, most of us spend our days looking at either a computer or phone screen. Compound this with sitting all day, doing the same tasks every day, and being chronically stress and we wonder why some people develop neck pain or have upper-back tightness.

 

What To Do

Exercise was shown to provide the most benefit in people who performed an adequate volume of exercise.5 Although we’re all for exercise and movement, fixing the cause of whatever discomfort you feel will be the best solution.4

The biggest change you can make is to have the screen (computer or phone) at eye level. This will prevent a slouching posture and help prevent any ailments. Regrading exercise, take time during the day to move your neck side-to-side and front-to-back so you feel a stretch.

 

Elbows

Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis) or in this case Mouse Elbow is pain felt on the outside of the elbow. As with other regions, both physical and psycho-social aspects influence its onset. The more hours per week of mouse use, the lower social support, and having more deadlines increased risk for elbow pain.6

 

What To Do

  • Stress reduction techniques (Headspace App)
  • More frequent breaks (drink more water for more ‘output’)
  • Wrist circles
  • Getting on the floor and using your body weight to get a mild stretch in the wrists
  • Morning arm circles

Hands & Wrists

The most common wrist disorder is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) from overuse.1 It occurs from the compression of your median nerve underneath your wrist, which in turn can cause burning, prickling, or other sensations in your thumb, pointer, middle, and half of your ring finger.1 As mentioned in the beginning, you do not want to ignore any symptoms.

Common hand complaints are Gamer’s Thumb (A.K.A. Trigger Thumb, Texting Thumb, or De Quervain’s Syndrome and Trigger Finger. This is when there is a painful snapping at the finger joint caused by the tendon ‘catching’ onto the sheath between joints. There was case of a 16 year old girl who developed Texting Thumb due to sending an average 8,507 texts per month (13,487 texts at her highest).7 Although conservative treatment worked initially and she decreased her texting to 3,172 times per month, it wasn’t enough to prevent surgery. If something feels off or begins to ache and you believe it’s because of overuse then be proactive.

What To Do

Adjust the daily routine that is most likely to cause issues:

  • Text with the opposite hand or both hands
  • Get a wrist-pad so your wrists are flat and not bending up or down (be mindful of pressure at the bottom of your wrist which may cause other symptoms)
  • Take more frequent mini-breaks throughout the day. This can involve drinking more water during the day so you have a ‘lighter output’

Some professional gamers wear wrist support to help them continue to practice and compete. This is just a temporary fix and you should ALWAYS be proactive in prolonging your career. For CTS, this involves:

  • Wrist circles before or during your work
  • Stretching out the chest area
  • Getting on the floor and using your body weight to get a mild stretch in the wrists

Lower Back

Most lower back pain is nonspecific meaning the definite cause is unknown and is considered chronic if it lasts >3 months.1 There can be multiple factors that influence low back pain including muscular, non-muscular, and psycho-social reasons.8 Some of the factors that influence lower-back pain are1 8:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Work dissatisfaction
  • Physical demands of work with manual workers reporting a prevalence of 39% compared to sedentary who reported 18.3%
  • Manual work that requires manual handling, bending, twisting, and whole-body vibration
  • Obesity

The good news is that “most acute episodes of low back pain will resolve within 6 to 8 weeks even in the absence of active treatment.” 8 Rest and modifying your daily activities may be all that’s needed.

What To Do

Adjust the daily routine that may cause issues:

  • Take more frequent mini-breaks throughout the day. This can involve drinking more water during the day so you have a ‘lighter output’
  • Get back support for your chair
  • Shift your computer screen to eye-level

Exercise was shown to be beneficial for chronic non-specific lower-back pain.5 8 Taking it slow can be beneficial so you work around the discomfort and not through it.

Some exercises:

  • Hip Flexor Stretch
  • Glute Bridge
  • Clam Shell
  • Bent Hollow Hold

These are some suggestions that movements and exercises that you can include into your day that can help you feel better. Taking a break to perform these increases your movement variation for the day and will help decrease stress. Together, these can help diminish your risk for developing any aches that can occur when you do work and put your hours in. In the end, stay proactive and leave the ego aside. If something doesn’t feel right or a muscle/joint has been bothering you for a while then go get it checked out! Office Athletes take care of themselves and strive for longevity. There are no substitutions for us, so make sure to take care of your body and mind.

Just so we’re all on the same page, the goal is to prevent any of these injuries and/or aches from occurring. If you believe you’re past the prevention stage, see a medical professional.

YOU SHOULD NOT RELY ON INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS COMMUNICATION AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR, NOR DOES IT REPLACE, PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE, DIAGNOSIS, OR TREATMENT. IF YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS OR QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR HEALTH, YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT WITH A PHYSICIAN OR OTHER HEALTH-CARE PROFESSIONAL. DO NOT DISREGARD, AVOID OR DELAY OBTAINING MEDICAL OR HEALTH RELATED ADVICE FROM YOUR HEALTH-CARE PROFESSIONAL BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU MAY HAVE READ IN THIS EMAIL. THE USE OF ANY INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS EMAIL IS SOLELY AT YOUR OWN RISK. SEEK PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE PRIOR TO PARTICIPATING IN OR PRACTICING ANY EXERCISE, MOVEMENT, OR NUTRITIONAL PROGRAM DISCLOSED, SUGGESTED, OR REFERRED TO IN CONNECTION WITH YOUR USE OF THIS COMMUNICATION AND/OR THE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES.

 

  1. Gatchel RJ, Schultz IZ. Handbook of musculoskeletal pain and disability disorders in the workplace: Springer 2014.
  2. Perry FT, Koehle MS. Normative data for the functional movement screen in middle-aged adults. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 2013;27(2):458-62.
  3. Aminoff MJ, Boller F, Swaab DF. Foreword. Handbook of clinical neurology: Elsevier 2011:vi.
  4. Cuéllar JM, Lanman TH. “Text neck”: an epidemic of the modern era of cell phones? The Spine Journal 2017
  5. Sjøgaard G, Christensen JR, Justesen JB, et al. Exercise is more than medicine: The working age population’s well-being and productivity. Journal of Sport and Health Science 2016;5(2):159-65.
  6. Lassen CF, Mikkelsen S, Kryger AI, et al. Elbow and wrist/hand symptoms among 6,943 computer operators: A 1‐year follow‐up study (the NUDATA study). American journal of industrial medicine 2004;46(5):521-33.
  7. Johnson JD, Gaspar MP, Shin EK. Stenosing Tenosynovitis Due to Excessive Texting in an Adolescent Girl: A Case Report. Journal of hand and microsurgery 2016;8(01):045-48.
  8. Patrick N, Emanski E, Knaub MA. Acute and chronic low back pain. Medical Clinics 2016;100(1):169-81.