Work Related Injuries of The Muscles and Spine

WORK RELATED INJURIES OF THE MUSCLES AND SPINE

Work related injuries are one of the most commonly seen injuries in clinic. Here are some small adjustments you can make to you work station

1 – REALLY look at your monitor
The distance and height as well as the angel of the monitor play a big role in cervical spine health and in avoiding work related injuries. As a general rule of thumb, the monitor should be within arm’s length withmonitor height at or slightly below eye level. A slight upward tilt of the monitor by approximately 10-20 degrees is also recommended.

2 – Look around
Looking at a computer display all day long can cause noticeable eye fatigue. To reduce the stress on the eyes, look away from the monitor every 10 to 20 minutes or so to focus on something more than 20 feet away. The clock on the wall, the tree outside the window. Changing focus to something in the distance will cause the eyes to adjust and give the close-in focus muscles a chance to relax. The use of screen filters can also be beneficial however good screen habits are shown to be  most effective  (Ann Med Health Sci Res. 2014)

3 – Keep your mouse close
Common work related injuries such as neck pain, carpal tunnel and ‘mouse shoulder’ can be caused by poor positioning of the mouse . Ensure your mouse is positioned as close as possible to your keyboard. This helps avoid postures which require prolonged abduction and external rotation of the shoulder which can irritate the rotator cuff, cause neural stress  and neck pain. Upright and ergonomic mice can  be helpful, as well as learning to use your mouse with both hands to reduce frequency of use/per hand. Research has shown that holding the mouse with the arm less than 10° abducted from the body can reduces the muscle activity by a factor of 25-60% (Cornell University, April, 2006). This basically results in less stress in the shoulder , neck and rotator cuff.

4 – Be more active in work
Take regular breaks from your workstation. This doesn’t have to mean 17 coffee breaks per day. Be mindful of movement- walk to a colleagues desk instead of picking up the phone, if you spend time on calls- use a wireless headset and walk and talk, take the stairs instead of the lift. Movement provides a host of benefits including reducing stress on the discs of the spine. It can also help lift your mood and combat lethargy without reducing focus and attention. According to a study published by Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology in 2015  two minutes of walking per hour can be as effective as standing all day

5 – Get Help
If you are suffering from any  issues you feel are related to your work environment flag it to your office manager or HR contact. Recurrences, impact and functional limitations can be minimised if issues are identified in a timely fashion. This can be done by an Ergonomics Assessment provided at your work station. Alternatively speak to your physiotherapist about correct desk set up and simple work place exercises which can counteract poor postures we have learned in the workplace.

KATE ROSS
PHYSIOTHERAPIST
ERGONOMIC SPECIALIST

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