There’s a good chance that you’re sitting in front of your desk or on your sofa or on a public mode of transport while reading this. Considering most of us spend the majority of our time in front of a digital medium this would be a fair assumption to make.
The problem begins with the act of sitting itself. You see we weren’t designed to sit for such extensive periods of time. As a sedentary activity excessive sitting was dubbed as the ‘new smoking’ as a number of studies began to link it to a greater risk of obesity, diabetes, early death from heart disease and cancer.
Then comes the slew of other problems it causes to you’re your external body (musculoskeletal system). From hunching forward to protruding your neck to taxing your eyes to straining your wrists to causing stiff shoulders and hips to causing lower back; the health ramifications of a desk job overshadow all its perceived ‘work-life’ benefits.
In fact, lower back pain is estimated to be 540 million people at any given point in time and is now been labelled as one of the leading causes of disabilities worldwide, according to study by The Lancet. Did you know that lower back pain is also the fourth highest cause of disability in India?
The good news is that all you need is all you need is some simple stretches and minor adjustments in your environment to reduce the discomfort, further complications for your health and job satisfaction.
Key problem area #1: Lower back pain
The most common problem that most people who sit chained to a desk face. The slump in your back pushes your spine out-of-sync while sitting by itself puts the entire load of your body on your lower back.
Quick fix: Rock your pelvis back and forth when you’re sitting in your desk chair, tilt your pelvis up and back from time-to-time to loosen your back muscle and prevent them from tightening. Also, use a lumber pillow to cushion the gap between your lower back and chair to help keep your back upright.
The stretch: Pilates wall roll down
Key problem area #2: Tight hips
As mentioned before the human body wasn’t designed to be in a seated position for long durations of time. Spending too much time in this position can shorten your hip flexors, the muscle in front of your hips and cause and pain. Stiffness in this region also causes add to more lower back issues.
Quick fix: Stand up from your seated position regularly to give your muscles tightened muscles a break and increase the blood circulation the stiffened area. Ideally, you should be looking to move around every 30 to 60 minutes.
The stretch: Seated hip stretch
Key problem area #3: Neck, shoulder and chest pain & stiffness
You don’t realise how many aches and pains you cause your neck, shoulders and chest muscles (pectorals-side muscles of the chest) while operating on your desktop using your mouse and keyboard for an extended period of time. Sitting too far away from your keyboard and screen or an inappropriate position can cause strain and injury to these areas.
Quick fix: Fix the monitor of computer directly in front of your sight as you sit upright, instead of your side or in an angled position. This keeps your neck, shoulders and chest in a good position. Also, use a hands-free device if you’re on the phone frequently to avoid forcing your ear, shoulder and head into an awkward position.
Stretch #1: Seated neck stretch
Stretch #2: The doorway stretch
Key problem area #4: Wrist pain
Similar to your other body parts your wrist was not supposed to be in a position where it is constantly pounding away on the keyboard either. Overusing it in the position it is at while typing for long durations results in leads to conditions like ‘carpel tunnel syndrome’ or persistent pain due to the fatigue in tendons in that area.
Quick fix: Place your wrists as naturally as you can on your mouse or keyboard without much strain. Also, use a wrist rest for your keyboard and mouse and keep taking breaks in between to give your wrists a rest.
The stretch: Prayer stretch
Key problem area #5: Eye strain
Out of all the major issues related to being seated to workstation this one gets ignored the most. Staring into a digital device for an extended period of time and straining your eyes to read print that’s too fine or too close to your face are two of the most common issues that people face. Not blinking enough while staring into the screen also leads to dry eyes and fatigue.
Quick fix: Look away from your screen every 20 to 30 minutes to something that’s far away in the distance, such as a building in the distance through your workspace window or something distant on your office floor. Better yet just get up and move away from your screen and workstation. Make sure the monitor is 20 to 40 inches away from your face and at eye level to maintain a safe distance.