In Pain? Problem May Be Your Desk Job

Submitted by Loudoun Physical Therapy

Can work make you sick?

Back pain, neck pain, headaches, carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and shoulder pain are common complaints among patients who have a "desk job." People often find themselves stretching their back, neck, hands many times during the day due to stiffness or fatigue. Many do not realize the recurring headaches and/or body aches are due to poor body mechanics (slouching in an office chair), repetitive motions (typing), or prolonged activity in sitting or standing positions. For example, carpal tunnel is caused by repetitive motions from the wrist irritate tendons and ligaments, and increase pressure on the median nerve causing weakness, numbness, and pain in the wrist/hand which radiates up the arm. Static postures, slouched postures, and unsupported positions can compress nerves, restrict blood flow, and/or damage muscles. Prolonged sitting at a computer with poor posture causes rounded shoulders and forward head. If not addressed in time, this could lead to upper crossed syndrome which causes the front neck muscles and mid-back muscles to weaken and stretch, and the back neck muscles, shoulders, and chest muscles to tighten and shorten. This causes abnormal muscle tone and imbalance impacting muscles and posture long term.  

 Research shows females, years of computer use, and more than 20 hours of computer use per week are directly correlated with an increase in upper extremity and neck pain. Similarly, there is a direct relationship between the increase in the number of hours of computer use and the increase in neck and shoulder pain. Simple adjustments at work can help decrease aches and pains.


Proper sitting and standing posture at work along with ergonomics can help reduce the external stresses on the body decreasing the aches and pain. Ergonomics is defined as the "study of people’s efficiency in working environments." It is tailored to an employee’s work place, physical requirements, capabilities, and limitations to ensure a safe and suitable place to work.

Adjusting your chair can make a difference


What else can I do?



If you find that you are suffering from pain, we suggest you start by making a few simple adjustments to your office setup and posture.


To learn more about getting-back-to-work programs, please click here.

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