Your Desk Could be Hurting You

Posted by L.C. Thurston on 2017 Oct 25th

Regular computer users perform 50,000 to 200,000 keystrokes each day. Frequent computer use that involves awkward postures, repetition, and forceful exertions may be related to nerve, muscle, tendon and ligament damage.

If you use a computer several hours each day, many experts recommend that you consider proper workstation layout and posture techniques to minimize your risk of harming your hand/arm, shoulder, neck, and back.

Overuse injuries develop over time, and may set in more quickly if you spend long hours sitting at a computer at home, as well as at work.

Who's At Risk

Modern technologies have created jobs that require people to remain in stagnant positions or perform repeated movements that stress and disable the human body over time. There are multiple risk factors that can lead to poor ergonomic heath. 

People who are required to sit for more than seven hours a day, people who are exposed to vibrations such as truck drivers or people who perform repetitive movements for prolonged periods have a higher risk of developing Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). Ergonomic injuries can affect the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs. 

These injuries result from:

  • Awkward or sustained postures 
  • Forceful exertion or strain 
  • Contact pressure
  • Exposure to vibration 
  • Exposure to heat and cold 
  • People who drive, sit at office desks or are unaware of proper back and ergonomic health

Those individuals with pre-existing Musculoskeletal conditions such as scoliosis or a sports injury are at higher risk of exacerbating their condition if proper ergonomics is ignored. Therefore, it is important to recognize your workplace, home and sleeping set-up is ergonomically designed to suit your body, as well as maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle.

Signs & Symptoms

When a worker is exposed to the risk factors of MSDs, they begin to fatigue. When fatigue outruns a body's recovery system, a musculoskeletal imbalance develops. Over time this imbalance continues to outrun the recovery system and leads to a full on MSD affecting a body's movement.

MSDs have a number of signs and symptoms to look out for. The early warning signs are important to recognize in order to identify and fix improper ergonomics to reduce the chance of an injury developing into a chronic condition. The danger signs are:

  • Discomfort, tightness or pain in the shoulders, neck, upper or lower back, hips, knees etc. or when making certain movements
  • Numbness or weakness
  • Tingling or burning sensations

It's important not to ignore these signs because further pain, chronic problems and long-term disability have the potential to follow. The proper ergonomic positioning of your workspace, home, bed or during exercise and activity should be considered to reduce further injury. Other symptoms to look out for are:

  • Pain in various parts of the body (dull aching pain, or sharp stabbing pains)
  • Swelling, inflammation or joint stiffness
  • Loss of muscle function
  • Clumsiness or loss of coordination
  • Limited range of motion (ROM)

What Can Be Done?

Sitting in one place for prolonged periods can cause damage by placing stress on joints and restricting blood flow. Consider ergonomic desk plan to help reduce this.  

  • Monitor: Adjust the distance and height of your monitor to avoid craning your neck. the top of your monitor should be at eye level and the whole think should be tilted upward. The Ideal distance between your eyes and your monitor is 18-24".
  • Arm position: Your arms should feel comfortable with relaxed shoulders and forearms parallel to he floor. You should not have to bend your wrist much or at all type. 
  • Chair: Your work chair should feature a backrest with lumbar support, if it does not consider a backrest to help. It should also have armrests and you should be able to adjust the height.
  • Leg Position: Your thighs should be parallel to the floor with your feet comfortably touching the floor. You may consider a foot rest to help.

Even if you have optimized the ergonomics of your desk you should stretch regularly. Remember to stand and stretch at least once an hour to help increase blood flow to your extremities. You can review our easy office exercises for easy to do stretches you can at your desk.