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Work Can Hurt- Learn to Stop the Pain!

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Although most people associate being injured at work with needing to use worker's compensation insurance, there are other ways that people develop pain at work over time that are not considered "work comp injuries". Pain from working can range from large injuries such as fractures or tears to small ones like overuse pain. Because we spend so much time at work usually doing the same repetitive motions it can cause pain due to overwork or asymmetrical use. No, the answer is not to just stop working! Understanding how these injuries can occur can help solve and prevent pain in the future.

First, we must understand how the body is designed to move. The body can move in 3 planes of motion called triplane motion: forward-back (sagittal plane), side-side (frontal plane), and rotationally (transverse plane). Daily movements are a combination of these planes of motion and when done correctly it helps to engage muscles to stabilize the movement. In most jobs, we perform the same movements over and over or stay in the same position for an extended period of time. When this occurs we stop engaging certain muscles and lose mobility in planes of motion. This will then cause decreased support and asymmetrical wear and tear on the body.

pain at the computer from poor posture

Many people do not connect pain to their job if it does not require heavy lifting or pushing, however many of our patients have neck, shoulder, back, and hip pain contributed by their sedentary jobs. Everyone has heard of ergonomics being important for computers but pain from computer work goes beyond a proper desk set-up. Causes of pain at a sedentary job can include:

  • Positioning of the desk, chair, and computer

  • Use of a phone throughout the day

  • Repetitive typing or texting

  • Prolonged sitting

These factors can create pain and strain throughout the body. Below are the following ways to help prevent or reduce pain at work:

  • Proper ergonomic setup specific for a desktop or laptop

  • Use a headset or headphones to decrease neck stress talking on the phone

  • Core and shoulder blade strengthening to help support improved posture

  • Hip flexor stretching throughout the day to decrease hip and lower back tightness

  • Changing position in a 1:1 or 1:3 pattern during the day (moving schedule)

Research has shown that a movement schedule to promote changes in position with sedentary jobs decreases pain and the negative impacts of sitting. The ideal ratio for sitting and standing has been found to be either 1:1 or 1:3. This means for every 1 hour of sitting, you would either stand for 1 hour or for 3 hours and repeat this series in the workday. An ideal movement schedule would include a few minutes of walking during the time of position change to help with circulation and muscle tightness.

No matter the job or position, there are always risks for potential pain from poor preparation and overuse. Do not overestimate the importance of triplane movement, core strengthening, and proper mechanics!

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