5 common desk bound injuries and how to avoid them

ipad user slouching
ipad user slouching

The office environment does not lend itself to an optimal pain free and posturally aligned existence.  Our postural alignment is often the last thing we think about until we begin to experience pain.  Here are the 5 most common aches and injuries from a desk bound environment and how to avoid them.

RSI - Repetitive Strain Injuries 

This is an umbrella term given to a collection of upper limb injuries including thoracic outlet syndrome, double crush syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome, golfers elbow, tennis elbow.....  These injuries mostly start in the neck and shoulder area and commonly come from postural misalignment.

How to avoid it 

Try to avoid typing for long periods of time - take a break for a few minutes every half hour or so.  If you have a smart phone with voice activation then use it to give your hands, fingers and wrists a break.  Take time off your phone and tablet by reading a newspaper or a book or listening to music.   

Low back pain

This is probably the most common complaint of all desk bound workers.  Back pain can occur for many different reasons and your office environment can contribute and exacerbate it.  The most common cause of back pain is slouching in your chair and then sustaining postures for long periods that encourage certain structures to be stressed more than others.

How it avoid it

Sitting for long periods is not great for your back.  Make sure you move frequently throughout the day.  Get out of the office for lunch, walk to the water cooler, take a few flights of stairs up or down between floors, get out a tube station early and walk the remaining distance to your office.  If you can exercise before or after work or even during your lunch break.  Without fail get your workspace assessed by an ergonomics specialist - insist on one from your company.  

Upper mid back pain 

Another common compliant especially from writers, architects, artists and anyone who hunches over their desk.  Mid thoracic aches and pains often come from an imbalance between the muscles in the front of the shoulder and chest area being too tight and the upper back muscles being too weak.  A common occurrence is a strained feeling which comes from the back muscles being stretched but at the same time contracting to stop you from collapsing over your desk.  It is call tautness - the muscles are weak and tight at the same time from being over worked.  

How to avoid it

Work on your upper back alignment - do not hunch over your desk.  If you are writing and reading or drawing a lot then invest in an architects desk that you can tilt to an appropriate angle for your work.  Invest in a few sessions with someone who can teach you upper back exercises and stretches for postural alignment that you can do daily to strengthen your upper back.

Neck pain 

Neck pain is exceptionally common especially these days with the use of smart phones and tablets that we look down to use.  Even at your desk you are inclined to crane your head forwards towards the computer screen in front of you.  This puts incredible strain on the neck and can cause injuries such as a cervical disc prolapse.   

How to avoid it

Mobilise your neck throughout the day with head rolls and shoulder rolls.  If you have a chair with a head support consciously press your head back into the support whilst you work.  Make sure your chair alignment is assessed by an ergonomics specialist.  This will help correct the alignment of your head and neck as you work.  Do not place the phone between your ear and your head - use your loud speaker or invest in a head set.  Use a stand for your tablet if you are working at your desk to avoid hunching over it.  

Shoulder pain 

Shoulder pain can come from excessive use of smart phones and even typing on your keyboard.  Mostly pain will come from misalignment and if often associated with neck and mid thoracic issues.  Shoulders are vulnerable joints so seek out help with postural alignment.

How to avoid it 

Mobilise your neck throughout the day with head rolls and shoulder rolls.  Make sure your workspace is optimally aligned for your arms and shoulders.  Take a rest from your smart phone - some phones now have voice activation so you can give your hands and arms a rest from the constant furious typing.  Find a corrective exercise specialist or a rehab specialist to help you with your shoulder alignment.

General advice 

If your pain does not resolve itself within 7-10 days and if it gets continually worse then seek treatment from a physiotherapist or osteopath.  Early treatment often results in a quick recovery.  It is tempting to ignore aches and pains until they become unbearable - the longer you leave something the longer it will take to recover.  If you would like more information on how to resolve a desk bound injury please email me at

KT@precisionmovement.co.uk

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