When people think of workplace injuries, they may think of dangerous factory machines or dusting gas exposures. Perhaps that is why it is hard to believe that people who work most of the day sitting at a desk have a significant risk of neck and back injury.
“Desk workers” represent a large and growing segment of the workforce involved in workplace injuries. The list of injuries associated with “just sitting” is eye opening. People who spend more than four hours a day sitting behind a desk as part of their job are at greatly increased risk for:
• Neck pain
• Neck strain
• Lower back pain
• Leg pain
• Carpal tunnel syndrome
• Pinched nerves
• Back muscle atrophy
• Poor posture
• Others issues.
Prolonged sitting not only directly causes pain and stiffness, but it contributes to increased laxity or stretchiness of the muscles and ligaments that support the spine. The spine adapts to poor posture and abnormal stresses that come from sitting at a desk all day. This increased laxity coupled with muscle tightness makes the neck and back prone to muscle pulls, muscle strains, vertebral disc herniation, and potentially damage to the spinal cord and nerve roots. This causes not only muscular pain but also neurological pain, numbness, and even muscle weakness.
Standing, on the other hand, significantly reduces the pressures on the neck and lower spine. The spinal column is better able to support the weight of the neck and torso when a person is standing versus sitting. People who sit for most of their workday may want to consider ways to stand while completing their daily tasks.
One solution is to buy a standing desk and getting rid of the office chair altogether. Few people can do this in one day, so when you buy your standing desk make sure you keep your chair around until you build up the neck and back muscles required to make it through an entire day. Another solution may be to move your laptop to a windowsill or other raised counter in your office. Even getting out of the chair for a portion of the day is better than sitting for an entire work shift.
The more time you can spend standing rather than sitting will increase your protection against back and neck pain and injury. Just as workers wear hard hats to construction site or ventilators in a coal mine, office workers must use the right equipment and procedures to protect themselves against the dangers of their work environment.