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Four Ways Your Office Job Is Hurting You And What to Do About it

Thursday, September 11, 2014

 

Clark Kent

We don't all look peppy when we work, do we?

According to an article in US News and World Report, 86 percent of American workers sit all day for work.

Are you one of them?

This article examines a research study that found that when people sit for 11 or more hours/day (and 86 percent of you sit for an average of 13 hours/day at home and work), they have "a 40 percent increased risk of death in the next three years, compared with people who sit for four hours or less.”

Yikes.

You work out, though, right? It turns out that working out, although more beneficial than not working out, doesn’t offset the damage done by that much sitting.

And those standing desks? A Time magazine article notes that standing all day comes with its own issues: it is more tiring, greatly increases risk for carotid atherosclerosis, increases incidence of varicose veins and, unless you have perfect posture, ends up increasing risk for carpal tunnel syndrome.

It seems that the best option to offset all that sitting is to exercise regularly and to build standing breaks into your workday, using five-minute bursts of energy to get your blood pumping. If you need to, set an alarm on your computer so that you can stand, stretch, and maybe march in place once an hour.

In addition to “Sitting Disease,” here are three other ways in which your desk job might be hurting you, and options for alleviating them:

Repetitive Stress Injuries

The most common of these is carpal tunnel syndrome, but people often develop issues in their upper backs and shoulders due to the repetitive use of the keyboard and mouse. These injuries can make working painful, interrupt sleep and, in some cases, can lead to surgery.

All of these injuries are effectively treated by things like acupuncture, physical therapy and rest. However, it is far better to prevent these issues before they occur. Click here for some stretches you can use to prevent carpal tunnel.

Sick Building Syndrome

You know how bad you feel after sitting on an airplane and breathing in all that recycled air?

Your office air system works in much the same way, only instead of the occasional exposure for several hours on an airplane, you are being exposed to this air 40 or more hours each week. The more energy efficient your office, the higher the probability of diminished air quality, because any potential for outside air exchange is sealed off.

This can lead to increased attacks on your immune system, increased exposure to chemicals and “accounts for 10 percent of all asthma cases in the U.S.” 

This is more difficult to fix, as your building manager may not be willing to have the building inspected and retrofitted. One thing you can do is to offset bad air inside by making sure you have some healthy air- purifying office plants around you.

Eye Strain

OK, this one doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Some of the symptoms include dry, red irritated eyes, slight blurriness of vision, upper back and neck strain and headaches.

The headaches are what can make this issue particularly troublesome. Spending hours each day in front of a screen, with flickering or glaring overhead lights, can lead not only to those frequent and irritating headaches, but can also be a trigger to migraines (http://www.migrainetrust.org/factsheet-migraine-triggers-10505). If you do not suffer from headaches, eye strain may not sound like a big deal, but if you are someone who regularly suffers headaches, you know how disruptive they can be.

The good news is that this is usually a pretty simple to prevent. The Mayo Clinic lists more than a dozen simple things you can do to prevent and treat eye strain, such as taking screen breaks, adjusting your monitor height, and doing periodic eye and temple massage. Read the complete list here.

While making these little changes can’t make you like your job more (and hopefully that is not an issue, because that’s a whole other article), they can make your job more pleasant and comfortable and, most importantly, make you feel better when you are not at work.

Take the few minutes it will require to address any of the four issues I mentioned, and let go of your physical pain at work.

Erin Brockmeyer

Erin Brockmeyer, LAc, is owner and acupuncturist at Solstice Natural Health in downtown Portland. She creates custom health plans for patients to help them tackle their most complicated health concerns, including infertility, prenatal care, fibromyalgia, thyroid conditions and chronic and acute pain conditions.  Visit her website  for more information and to download her free e-book 5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health Today.

Homepage photo credit: Nana B Agyei via flickr under CC BY 2.0

 

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