While people often point to physical jobs like construction or firefighting as potential sources of injury, the reality is that your nine-to-five desk job may be doing as much physical harm as hauling cement or climbing a ladder. From carpal tunnel to more serious spine issues, that cushy desk job isn’t doing your body any favors.
Here at the LA Orthopaedic Specialists, many of our patients from Downtown Los Angeles, California, come in with complaints that range from painful wrists to debilitating low back pain, many of which are job-related.
Whether you’ve injured yourself doing manual labor or you’re in pain because of a degenerative condition caused by repetitive use, here are a few workplace tips to keep orthopedic issues like carpal tunnel syndrome at bay.
It’s amazing how one small area under your wrist can create so many problems. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a nagging condition that has become commonplace among people who work at keyboards, a demographic that only gets larger with each passing year.
Your carpal tunnel is a crowded passageway where nine flexor tendons share space with your median nerve, which controls the sensation in all of your fingers except your pinkie. When you keep your wrist in one position and repeat the same movement over and over (like when you’re typing), the tissue surrounding your tendons can become inflamed, which puts pressure on your median nerve, leaving you with numbness or pain in your hand.
You can avoid this condition altogether if you give your wrists frequent breaks and stretch them out. Shake out your hands, stretch your arms all the way out, and flex your wrists downward. If you do this every hour, you can avoid the inflammation that leads to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Protect your back
Back pain is the leading job-related disability in the United States, so we simply can’t say enough about protecting this strong but surprisingly fragile area.
Let’s start with those desk jobs again. Your musculoskeletal system is designed to move, and at the heart of this system is your spine. Unfortunately, because of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, we haven’t built up the surrounding muscles to support our spines properly, which leaves us open to back problems, especially muscle strains and degenerative disc diseases.
You’d do well to spend some time in the gym strengthening the muscles in your back, in order to take the pressure off your spine. And while you’re at your desk, be very mindful of your posture — sit up straight and avoid slouching.
You should also take time to stretch your back — and it’s very easy. For example, place your hands on the front of your desk and look over your shoulder in both directions to twist your spine every 30 minutes. Or get up and reach down and touch your toes throughout the day.
If you have a physical job, we’re sure you know that lifting with your legs and not your back is paramount, as improper lifting is a surefire way to strain your back.
Get up and move
If you have a desk job, one of the most important things you can do is get up and move. Make it a point to move every hour, and there are many ways you can do that. For instance, instead of emailing a colleague, walk over and ask your question in person. Or make your lunch break a real break by leaving your desk and going somewhere to get food.
There are also some amazing apps that you can download that have set timers and goals for moving throughout the day. Start by checking out Endomondo, Hotseat, or MyFitnessPal. These apps remind you to move your body and exercise, keeping your entire musculoskeletal system limbered up and functioning as it should.
In the event that you do sustain an injury at work, schedule an appointment at LA Orthopaedic Specialists and we’ll do everything we can to get you back to unlimited and pain-free movement.