Amy Gilbert

The physio: Sitting at a desk is causing your pain

Do you have postural pain? How about back pain or neck pain? Workplace stress? Just plain old stress? Or maybe you feel fatigued and lethargic? Not motivated to go to the gym, or even for a walk?

If you answered yes to one or more than one of the above, you are not alone. Some 70 percent of my clients have such complaints.

And while I’m happy to treat anyone who needs help, there is a simple – and much less costly – solution to the problem: Get moving.

Did you know that if you have been an office worker for 25 years, the time you have spent at a desk over that time amounts to an astonishing five years! That’s a very long time just to be sitting down. (And that’s not counting the couch sprawl that often follows in the evening.)

Of course, you can modify your desk setup so it’s more ergonomically correct. You can also sit on a Swiss ball or get a standing desk. But few people will make these simple changes.

My advice is to get up every 20 to 30 minutes, even if it involves just standing up and sitting down on the spot, walking to confer with a colleague instead of emailing, or walking while taking a phone call. These simple adjustments could help to relieve many workplace injuries, including back and neck pain and repetitive strain injuries. Movement also cuts down on the body’s stress hormone, cortisol, which encourages lethargy. Movement also helps correct a poorly functioning immune system.

Physiotherapy can help, too. A complete assessment – of posture, workplace setup, range of movement – can discover the true cause of a person’s pain. The physio may decide on a combination of manual work on soft tissues and joint mobilization, or a combination of dry needling, acupuncture, stretching and heat and ice treatment. But you also need exercises that you can do on your own, to complement the physio’s work, as well as tips on how to arrange your workspace properly.

My go-to message is not one my clients always want to hear, but it does work. Pain does not have to be a permanent part of your life, provided you get moving. If you can work to help yourself on a daily basis, you can reduce injury, the cost of healthcare and treatment and improve your overall quality of life.

Amy Gilbert is a member of the livehealthy.ae expert panel. She is a physiotherapist and founder of Perfect Balance Rehabilitation Centre on Reem Island’s Tamouh Tower.

Instagram: @agilbertphysio

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