It's no secret that most of us are working harder than ever. But what may come as a surprise is that all this extra time we spend in workplaces - from cramped office cubicles, to cramped kitchens to sprawling warehouses - is causing many workers to suffer a lot of pain. The following are some habits in your workplace that make chronic pain worse.
Habits in the workplace that make chronic pain worse
A recent study from the University of California, which revealed that negative factors in the workplace, such as long hours and poor job security, are directly related to chronic back pain, a condition that affects more than 80 percent of adults in the US alone for its part, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, who say that a staggering 50 percent of all carpal tunnel syndrome - chronically inflamed, painful nerves in your wrist - are related to work.
All this pain is preventable. As has been revealed in much of the recent research, which we have reviewed below and compiled below, a significant amount of work-related pain is incurred due to bad habits that you may have internalized over the years. So, whatever your profession - carpenter or computer jockey, CEO or chef - it's imperative to examine such habits and purge them one by one.
Sitting for long periods
You may have heard that sitting is the new smoking habit. Studies say that sitting too long, even for a few hours at a time, can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, premature death, and even loss of brain function. So it should come as no surprise that sitting can also aggravate pain. The chronic inactivity that makes up most of the days of office workers can lead to weaker muscles and susceptibility to pain.
Worry about the little things
Although sitting for long periods can now be considered a silent killer, the real king of pain is stress. The stress you accumulate during the day can increase chronic pain. In fact, a study found that stress management techniques are essential to help manage pain.
Working unhealthy hours makes pain worse
Struggling to achieve a good work-life balance is another arena where you are your own worst enemy. Working endless hours creates additional stress, both on your mind and on your body. Plus, all that time in the office cuts down on the leisure time that can be spent on proven stress-relief activities (a bath, a massage, a round of golf). In other words, every extra hour of overtime is only aggravating your pain.
Sitting in a bad chair
Although sitting is, again, the new smoking habit, you will want to strike a balance in the amount of time you spend standing. If you spend all day on your feet, you'll find yourself on a fast track to serious chronic foot pain. Most low back pain experts recommend dividing your time between sitting and standing. Whether it's a 50-50 or a 60-40 even split, one way or another, it's up to you. Calculate your pain and discomfort; you know your body better than anyone else.
That said, by the time you wear out your feet, you'll want to make sure you're sitting in a proper chair. Instead of the shoddy, mesh-backed monstrosities of most offices, invest in a throne of ergonomic comfort.
Eating food from vending machines
The more overweight you are, the more likely your chronic pain will continue. And few things do it like frequent trips to the vending machine for snacks. Oh, and even if you're not worried about chronic muscle pain, a study from the University of Cincinnati linked junk food to frequent migraines. If you're in the mood for something crunchy, look for a healthy option: carrots and hummus, a handful of lightly salted walnuts, or even a fresh, crunchy apple.
Look at the screen all the time
Staring at a glaring monitor can cause all kinds of negative side effects, from blurred vision to fatigue or, according to a study in the journal BMC Public Health, headaches. To combat this, implement the popular 20-20-20 technique: Every 20 minutes, stare at an object at least 20 feet (6 meters) away for 20 seconds. This will give your eyes and mind a much needed rest.
Don't use the stairs
Not only does climbing the stairs help calm your legs, but it also provides an energy boost equivalent to that of a small cup of coffee. Seeing that excessive caffeine consumption has been linked to increased blood pressure.
Slouching at the desk increases pain
Poor posture can lead to a lot of small and generally annoying pains. But if you torment yourself at work for hours on end, you will feel it most acutely in your upper back.
Have long meetings sitting
If all of your meetings take place in a conference room packed with inflexible chairs, suggest that your boss start a walking meeting once a month. An emphasis on movement can help with brainstorming, and a little less sitting time can help control pain.
Eat at your desk
Spending too much time at your desk can lead to a host of poor health outcomes. Namely, devouring your lunch every day in front of your computer, rather than going out and moving, can contribute to obesity, according to a study from the University of Montreal. And being overweight is a sure way to help maintain pain for much longer.
Lifting heavy things with your back
Everyone is taught to "live with legs." And while most people don't follow that advice religiously, take it: Once you feel something sharp in your back while lifting a heavy object the wrong way, this adage becomes gospel. Make sure to squat while lifting heavy objects off the floor (instead of bending over), that will help keep your lower back healthy and strong.
Go out to smoke
Even if you think that getting up and going out to smoke will help you move toward your goal for the day, unfortunately it doesn't work that way. Not only does smoking tobacco increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke, studies have shown that it is also linked to low back pain and chronic pain in general.
Refusing to clean the desk
No, a cluttered desk does not directly contribute to chronic (or acute) pain levels. But if your office desk regularly looks like your dorm desk during college midterms, that is probably causing you serious stress, even if you don't necessarily realize it.
Stress at work, again, is directly related to higher levels of chronic (and acute) pain.
Holding your phone incorrectly
Cradling your landline between your shoulder and your head can be a recipe for considerable neck and shoulder pain. Instead, try wearing a telephone headset set or be careful to hold your phone correctly - receiver in hand. One case in France even saw an office worker suffer a mild stroke after spending more than an hour talking with his head down.
Carry a heavy bag
Stuffing a heavy bag or carrying an overloaded backpack incorrectly can contribute to low back pain, several recent studies say. If you use a backpack for work, be sure to use the belt with two straps. And if it still weighs you down, consider putting on your lap belt or, if you don't want to look like an idiot, spread your load between two separate bags.
Wear heels all week
Yes, high heels are a modern worker dress code staple (and, in most cases, extremely stylish). But sliding in a couple of high footsteps can put a lot of pressure on your lower lumbar area, which can lead to pain in your neck, shoulders, and back. To combat this, set aside a few days a week where the stilettos will be and where the flats will be.
Keeping a computer screen out of adjustment
In addition to ensuring that your chair is relaxing and comfortable, you should also install the top of your desk to maximize its ergonomics. This means adjusting the computer monitor or screens so they are not too high - it should be an arm's length away with the top of the screen no more than two to three inches above eye level.
Complete all your walking tasks at once
Don't get so involved in your work by doing all the tasks or errands you need to get done at the same time, whether at the workplace or nearby, during the latter part of the day. Combine them with your normal routine so that you can more easily add movement and mobility to your day to day.
Write with your hands on the desk
You may not realize it, but correct posture also extends to the way you place your hands when you write. To keep pain at bay, be sure to type with your hands on the keys, not leaning on the desk or keyboard, so that your shoulders are more relaxed and your wrists are not bent at an unnatural angle.
Maintaining a poorly adjusted seat
You finally got a new, ergonomic chair. Make sure it is adjusted perfectly. Any pain-reducing benefit you would receive is wasted if it is too high or too low. Here's how to find the perfect position. Make sure your hips are flush against the back of the chair, and that your feet are flat on the floor. Then adjust the chair until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
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