The majority of society does some sort of clerical or computer work for extended periods throughout the day.  In our practice we are constantly educating our clients on ways to improve posture and maintain mobility in people who have physically less demanding jobs that require sustained static postures. As our motto suggests, “Life Requires Movement”. Therefore, stagnation in any form is counterproductive.  Corporate wellness is becoming more commonplace with a focus on employee physical and mental health.  Some strategies used by large companies like Google and Apple are aimed at creating a mentally stimulating workplace which improves positive employee perception, decreases stress levels, and enhances productivity.  In addition, many of these corporate settings have health and fitness facilities built in, which provide workers daytime access. Unfortunately, not all employers have the budget that these companies do, or just have not jumped on the bandwagon yet. Today’s blog entry will provide some suggestions around movements and postures that may help the office worker maintain healthy joints and soft tissues.  We have created a simple questionnaire that will direct you to the most important movements and postures for your specific needs. The questionnaire is divided into four quadrants based on area of the body. Select all that apply to you.  Based on your score in each quadrant you will be able to decide on the strategies that may best suit you.

                                                Quadrant #1 – Neck, Shoulders, Upper Trunk
1.I use multiple screens or electronic devices
2.I often have difficulty seeing/concentrating
3.I experience headaches often
4.I use a handheld phone at work
5.I experience one or more of the following: neck pain, upper back pain, and shoulder pain *
6.I experience numbness and tingling in my hands and arms often **
                                              Quadrant #2 – Arms (Elbow, wrist, hand, fingers)
1.I use a mobile device for most of my workplace correspondence
2.I type for many hours per day
3.I do a lot of mousing during my day
4.I poor strength when gripping or opening jar/doorknob *
5.I often experience one or more of the following: elbow pain, wrist pain, thumb pain *
6.I experience numbness, tingling, pins and needles **
                                             Quadrant #3 – Lower trunk, pelvis, hips
1.I sit in a chair for more than 45 minutes at a time
2.I am unable to alter my desk height
3.I often sit cross legged or slouched
4.I experience one or more of the following when sitting: back pain, buttock pain, leg pain **
5.I change positions frequently to get comfortable
6.I experience numbness, tingling, pins and needles in my legs and feet **
                                                 Quadrant #4 – Legs (knee, ankle, foot, toes)
1.I experience stiffness in my knee, ankle, foot, toes
2.I wear high heels for work and/or flip flops or shoes with minimal support
3.I experience swelling in my feet and legs when I sit **
4.I experience one or more of the following: heel pain, hip pain, knee pain, foot pain *
5.I experience foot pain with the first few steps in the morning **
6.I experience numbness, tingling, pins and needles in my legs and feet **

Note: * Means that precaution should be taken, seek advice from health professional

** Means extreme caution, we highly recommend seeking advice from a physician and physical therapist.

Some of these symptoms are indications of physical ailments that plague the office worker.  Such conditions include, spinal dysfunctions due to sitting postures (Disc herniations, joint compression, nerve compression), and repetitive strain injuries (tennis elbow, golfers’ elbow, plantar fasciitis, De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, Carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.). Keep reading below for more details…

Once you have completed the above questionnaire you will be able to narrow down the area of focus by adding the number of applicable answers in each quadrant. Whichever quadrant you had the most checked off would correspond with the exercises provided for that quadrant (see the exercises listed by quadrants below).  If you are experiencing nerve symptoms, such as numbness, tingling pins and needles, you should seek professional advice prior to attempting the nerve floss exercises. There is very small room for error before you flare up a nerve that is already angry.

How does sitting cause injury to the spine?

A common question that comes up on a daily basis is how such a simple activity like sitting can be detrimental to one’s body.  There are many negative effects on the body including, lack of blood circulation, increase in pressure areas, constant low load tissue deformation, etc. The list actually goes on. It is not only your spine, hip, soft tissue and joints that are affected by long periods of sitting.  Studies have shown a negative effect of one’s cardiovascular and lymphatic systems as well. For the purpose of today’s entry, we will focus on soft tissues and joints of the spine, hip, knees and ankles. It is our opinion that the spine and hips are affected the most during sitting which then produce negative compensatory changes to the limbs of the upper and lower body. The spine is subjected to a long duration low load tissue deformation.  Humans typically slouch after sitting for more than half hour. Our buttocks slide deeper into the chair, our shoulders round and our heads start to migrate forward.  Especially when we have to stare at a monitor for hours. This places our lower spine and pelvis in a very poor position.  The pelvis tilts backwards and we begin to lose the natural curve of the lumbar spine.  Pressure increases in the disc and the muscles in the abdomen and front of the hips start to shorten.  Some of these muscles have attachment to the spine and the rib cage, therefore shortening them will pull us further into that dreaded posture. In addition to the lumbar spine, the thoracic (mid back), and cervical (neck) regions become adversely affected by having to compensate for the poor pelvic and lumbar positioning.  Just as the soft tissues are affected in the low back and hips, the soft tissues in the chest, shoulders and neck are also placed in a shortened or elongated position not optimal for performance.

What is a repetitive strain injury?

A common question we are faced with is how can the use of a computer mouse cause so much pain?  Constant use of any tissue in the body, without a period of rest, can cause what we call an RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury).  When the tissue gets overused, it can become inflamed.  Inflammation is part of our body’s natural healing process.  The inflammatory response requires about 48-72 hours depending on how severe the injury.  When an inflamed tissue gets used, it becomes exacerbated and the response starts over without any positive changes. Therefore, something so simple, when compounded hundreds and thousands of time, can lead to a very painful condition that is certainly very stubborn to treat.  The only way to heal an RSI, is to stop the insult and avoid any other activities that may set it off. In physiotherapy, we deploy specific treatments to specific tissues depending on stage of healing and chronicity.

If there are any questions or concerns regarding the material in this blog, feel free to contact our health professionals through the “contact us” page on our website.  If you are unsure of how to safely integrate these exercises into your routine, please comment below. If you are looking for physiotherapy in Mississauga or physiotherapy in Etobicoke, please give us a call or book an appointment online. Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER: ​Please be advised that these Lessons from LIFT Physiotherapy were created to share content on different topics. As such, we appreciate that there will be many different opinions regarding the topics discussed below. For clarification, the clinicians who have collaborated on and created these blogs are offering suggestions based on their experiences. We understand that there are a variety of exercises that would be applicable to the featured topic, however, we have chosen to highlight a select few for simplicity. The program outlined below will not be appropriate for everyone. Skill level, strength, mobility, stability and body awareness will determine whether the suggestions are appropriate. It is advisable to see a healthcare professional prior to engaging in any of the activities outlined.