Stress isn't the only type of pain most office employees suffer, new research shows.
A study by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) discovered that the majority of U.S. office workers are experiencing physical pain with some frequency. Specifically, two-thirds of employees have suffered from physical pain while on the job in the last six months, with nearly 25 percent believing it's just a standard part of having an office job.
The five hours or more a day most workers spend at their desks is the main culprit of such pain. The research shows that hunching over a desk, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, staring at a computer monitor and using a computer mouse are the work habits that are most likely to boost the chances for physical pain.
"Sitting at a desk all day can take a serious toll on your body, and with busy work schedules and full family lives, many office workers don't seek help to prevent or treat their pain until it reaches the point where it interferes with their ability to do their job without the added distraction of constant pain," said Rob Danoff, an AOA board-certified family physician with Aria Health System in Philadelphia.
The AOA offers office workers seven tips when sitting at their desk to prevent pain and become more active throughout the workday, including:
- Don't slouch: Employees should sit up straight and avoid hunching over their computer to engage abdominal muscles and reduce strain on the back.
- Keep feet flat: Put both feet flat on the floor and the rest of the body will respond by improving its overall posture.
- Keep eyes straight ahead: To reduce strain on neck muscles, office workers should place their computer monitor in a spot where the top of the screen is at eye level to reduce strain on neck muscles.
- Avoid the mouse trap: When typing and moving the mouse, make sure elbows stay close to the body and wrists are not bending too far forward or backward.
- Get up, stand up: Employees should set an alert on their calendar or phone for every 30 minutes as a reminder to take a stretch break.
- Visit a neighbor: Instead of emailing or calling, walk to a colleague's desk to speak with him or her in person. For longer conversations, hold a walking meeting.
- Take the road less traveled: If possible, don't take the elevator when arriving at the office. Take a few extra minutes to climb the stairs to get the blood flowing.
The study was based on surveys of more than 1,000 U.S. employees who mostly work at a desk.