Firefighter. Lumberjack. Data entry specialist. What do they all have in common?
HEADACHES, FATIGUE, AND LOW BACK PAIN.
Though one of those jobs may not seem to mesh with the others, such an assumption would be neither wise nor safe. The tasks of a data entry specialist—or any other desk worker, for that matter—may not require the brawn of a lumberjack or the courage of a firefighter, but they can elicit the same painful symptoms. The difference is that the injuries experienced by the average desk worker develop silently over time.
SLOW DRIP OR DELUGE?
While the lumberjack may throw out his back chopping down an oak or the firefighter may collapse from adrenal fatigue after a 24-hour shift, the data entry specialist simply shifts to one side, hunches forward, and doesn’t move for
Sound like hyperbole? Think again.
According to an article in the Washington Post, the average office worker sits for about 10 hours each day. Of that time, they remain almost completely still for more than four out of every five hours. Those 40-plus hours of sedentary stillness doesn’t even represent the countless hours spent watching TV, playing video games, traveling, sleeping, or idly browsing the internet.
In America, our backsides are glued to our seats, and the effects are no joke. Our extended down time leads to a disconcerting wealth of negative health outcomes including: chronic aches and inflammation, accumulated fat around the organs and midsection, hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance, and nerve damage. Half of those factors make up the lethal condition known as metabolic syndrome, which serves as the precursor for a number of more notorious conditions, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
Already, one in four American adults suffer from metabolic syndrome. And it turns out, lack of exercise away from the workplace is not the lone culprit. It is the cumulative effect of physical inactivity throughout our lives that is the most damaging. To prevent this damage and fight back against these conditions, we must choose to move and—regardless of occupation—demand safer, more functional work stations. According to the expert statement released in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Americans should begin to stand, move and take breaks for at least two out of eight hours at work.
NERVE DAMAGE AND POSTURE
As versatile and agile as it is, the human body must still maintain its intended shape. The body’s natural framework allows each tissue, organ, and system of the body to function properly. When that framework breaks down, the body struggles to function and pain, illness, and disease are able to develop.
Prolonged inactivity opens the door for nerve damage or neurodegeneration. Because the nervous system controls all function, health, and healing throughout the body the ripple effects of nerve damage should not be ignored. Your nerves are the electrical wiring of your body. They must be cared for as intently as your muscles, bones, and vital organs.
The way you treat your joints and soft tissues is often quite dangerous. In 2011 alone, there were 2,986,500 reported nonfatal injuries and illnesses that occurred in the workplace. Of those, 523,140 were cases involving muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints.
A host of other workplace-related issues are costing employers millions and causing employees to suffer. To name a few, these injuries include:
- TMJ (the jaw joint) issues
- Spinal disc problems in the neck and low back
- Strain-induced headaches
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (as well as other neurological and vascular problems)
By implementing proper ergonomic setups, your work station can actually help you maintain a proper posture—your body’s intended shape. Your body is able to maintain optimal nerve supply, blood flow and overall function when in correct posture. And by placing a focus on maintaining subtle movement throughout the day (by sitting on a stability ball or wobble cushion, for instance), you can lessen the negative effects of a primarily sedentary workplace.
You may have a big, cozy chair behind that knotty pine desk, but your inactivity and repetitive motions are likely leaving you feeling anything but comfortable. Not sure whether your work station is affecting your posture? Ask your 22 Health wellness doctor about what you can do to make a healthy change in your place of business.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you should have your spine checked immediately:
- Neck pain
- Numbness tingling in hands/arms
- Low back pain/leg pain
Is Everything OK at Your Desk? Here are the top 5 warning signs of a damaging work position:
- You have a pill bottle by your desk that you dive into daily.
- By lunch you are exhausted.
- You notice you are slouching a lot (Don’t blame the chair!).
- You feel like you need a massage every day.
- You feel achy after a day at the office.
Your Quick Guide to Checking Posture
(This does not substitute for an exam or X-ray performed by a 22 Health doctor with specific posture training.)
- STAND FACING A MIRROR OR A FRIEND.
- Close your eyes and walk in place and gently nod your head up and down 3-5 times. Hold on to a desk or chair if you have trouble with balance.
- Open your eyes.
- Look into the mirror or have your friend check the following points:
FROM THE FRONT :
- Is your head tilted to one side? (Look at eyes or level of the ear lobes.)
- Is your head rotated? (Look at the nose. Can you see one ear, but not the other?)
- Is one shoulder higher than the other?
- Is the hip higher on one side than the other? (Check the level of the pants.)
- Is one foot flared out to the side? Or is a toe pointed in?
FROM THE SIDE: (You will need a friend to look.)
- Is the ear directly over the shoulder? (Observing whether you’re hunching.)
- Is the pelvis jutting out in front? (Imagine a person pushing out their abdomen.)
These are all signs that your posture, spine and nervous system may be in trouble. An X-ray will validate these findings and help catch problems early enough to correct them. Remember, posture is the window to the spine. It affects everything from breathing to hormone production!