09 Nov Is Your Computer Causing you Pain?
If there is one thing we know for certain about 2020, it is the fact that many Americans are now working from the comfort and safety of their own home. But is it really all that comfortable and healthy for our bodies?
While staying home is helping to slow the spread of the virus, it is wreaking havoc on our health and wellness. No longer are people moving around as much as they used to while physically at work. From the commute, going in and out of the building, up and down stairs, or even the simple act of using the copy machine, the average steps of Americans is declining.
Even worse, employees are now having to use household furniture, makeshift office spaces, and workstations that are NOT ergonomically friendly.
Perhaps as you sit here, taking a break from work, you are on the couch with your laptop, sitting on your hard kitchen chain with your computer, or curled up in bed on your phone. None of these situations are ergonomic, or conducive to a productive and successful work day.
Instead, these homemade desks are creating poor postural habits, more stress and pain, and can lead to long term health issues. The thing with poor ergonomic setups are, you can’t be sure what might ensue. But you can be sure that something is bound to happen, causing you pain, poorer work performance, and can even negatively affect your daily life.
Fortunately we have highly trained and specialized Physical Therapists in Huntingdon Valley that can help you improve your ergonomics, decrease your risk of developing pain, and recover from ergonomic and postural related disorders.
Common Musculoskeletal Conditions Caused by Poor Ergonomics
There are many disorders of the musculoskeletal system that can arise from poor ergonomics.
Unfortunately, many people ignore these symptoms. As symptoms in our bodies are ignored and left untreated, they can progress into worse conditions, more pain, and can be harder to recover from.
Here is a list of common conditions and what can happen if left untreated:
Can you believe that poor posture can cause headaches? As you sit at your computer, if your chair is not the right height for your body, or if the screen is too far away from your eyes, you could easily develop headaches. As you reach your head and neck forwards and away from your body in order to be able to see the computer better, you add stress and tension to the muscles and joints of your head and neck.
What can start as a mild headache and upper neck tightness can quickly develop into cervicogenic headaches, tension headaches, and even jaw pain and tightness.
Neck pain can also develop due to poor ergonomics and not having the correct placement of your computer in relationship to your body.
This pain can be felt anywhere in the neck with tightness in the joints or muscles. If left untreated, symptoms can progress to the point where your neck tightness begins to compress nerves, causing radiculopathy.
What was once neck pain that could have been easily treatable with stretching and ergonomic modifications, is now causing numbness and tingling into your hands, making treatment longer and more challenging.
Yes, even your shoulders can become painful with poor ergonomics. If your keyboard is too far away from your body, your mouse is too far away from your keyboard, or even if you have the tendency to round your back while sitting, you run the risk of developing shoulder pain.
As you can probably imagine, all of these examples can cause the shoulders to round forwards. This posture compresses the tendons of your rotator cuff, creating pain anytime you try to move your shoulders.
If left untreated, it could develop into impingement syndrome of the shoulder, causing constant inflammation and irritation to your rotator cuff tendons, leading to tendonitis and even rotator cuff tears.
But Physical Therapy can help address this before you get to this point!
Low back pain
Of course low back pain makes the list of common conditions associated with poor ergonomics. Plus this is the one musculoskeletal condition that many people experience and assume it is simply a sign of aging.
As you can imagine, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, whether it is a hard kitchen chair or a chair without a supportive back, can cause increased stress to your low back as you sit for hours and hours each day. But even sitting in a chair with a supportive back can cause pain if it is not set up properly for your body and does not pair well with your desk and computer setup.
As your low back pain develops, you probably notice tightness in your back and hips. A quick modification of your chair and exercises for your hips and back can help to stop your symptoms from progressing. But when left untreated and ignored, sciatica can develop, causing symptoms down one or both of your legs. This shooting or sometimes nagging pain, along with numbness and tingling, creates a longer road to recovery compared to isolated back pain.
And last, but not least, even knee pain can develop from poor ergonomics. If your chair and desk do not allow you to sit with your hips slightly above your knees while also allowing your feet to rest flat and comfortably on the floor, knee pain can develop.
Knee pain usually comes on first as a sign of tightness through your quadriceps or hamstrings. But it can progress to tendinosis of your patellar tendon or even excessive compression of your knee cap into your knee joint, causing an increased “wear and tear” of your cartilage.
After reading all of these common conditions, it is easy to see that all of them have one thing in common, ergonomics.
Yes, ergonomics is multifactorial, but sometimes all it takes is one simple fix to improve how your whole body is moving and feeling.
Tips to Improve Your Work from Home Experience
If you are feeling any pain in your body, or are worried about pain that could develop, you should work with one of our highly trained Physical Therapists in Huntington Valley.
In the meantime, try these tips to help improve your experience:
- Use lumbar support
- A small, supportive pillow placed in the curve of your low back can improve the posture of your whole spine!
- Adjust your chair height
- Make sure your hips are slightly above your knees and that your feet are flat on the floor.
- If needed, place a small object under your feet to ensure they are resting flat and comfortably.
- Adjust your computer screen
- Make sure that it is at an arm’s length away.
- Adjust the height of the screen so that you do not need to look up or down.
- A good rule of thumb is to make sure your line of sight is at the middle of the screen.
- Take microbreaks
- Get up and move around, even if it is only for a minute every 20-30 minutes.
- Stretch areas of your body that start to feel tight!
If you start to feel any pain or tightness in your body, do not wait until your symptoms become severe.
Call our Physical Therapy office in Huntington Valley today at (215) 947-3443