Keep the right posture to reduce body pain and stiffness
Ageing and incorrect posture are both triggers for postural problems and joint and muscular pains.
Dubai - Half of our patients are those with neck, back and wrist pains caused due to jobs that demand them to stay glued to the computer screens for several hours every day or other jobs that demand sitting for long hours.
Five out of 10 patients suffer from joint pains caused either by sitting in front of computer screens for prolonged hours or by other work related incorrect postures. Bad posture, especially when it is repetitive, is likely to cause joint pains.
"Ageing and incorrect posture are both triggers for postural problems and joint and muscular pains. The normal ageing process affects the body and that coupled with incorrect posture is a warning sign," said Dr Suad Trebinjac, medical director of the Dubai Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre at Dubai Health Authority (DHA).
"Half of our patients are those with neck, back and wrist pains caused due to jobs that demand them to stay glued to the computer screens for several hours every day or other jobs that demand sitting for long hours. We treat a lot of dentists for shoulder and upper back pain because their work demands them to slouch over their chair in an incorrect posture. We also see a lot of nurses and those who lift heavy weights at work for lower back problems due to incorrect lifting techniques.
"Most of our patients are those who have desk jobs and sit for hours per day. Sitting for long hours is very harmful to your health and causes many more problems that just posture related issues. In fact, research proves that even if an adult exercises for one hour a day but has a job that requires long hours of sitting, the effect of that one hour of exercise will not offset eight to 10 hours of sitting per day," added Dr Trebinjac.
"There's a new term for it - its called people who are actively sedentary. If they are at risk from long hours of sitting, can you imagine the health risks people face who are not exercising at all and have jobs that demand sitting all day?" said Dr Treibinjac.
He also said that there are steps that can be taken to prevent these health problems. "People can avoid these problems through a three step approach - correct office ergonomics, regular stretching and breaks and strengthening of muscles through exercise. Those suffering from these problems, should visit a physiotherapist to get a specific tailor-made plan designed for them," he said.
Dr Treibinjac added that people who need to sit in front of computer screens for long hours normally hold their neck and head forward while working at a computer or cradling a phone to their ear. This can lead to strains in the cervical vertebrae along with permanent imbalances, which can lead to neck strain, sore shoulders and back.
Sitting also puts more pressure on the spine than standing. If a person is sitting hunched in front of the computer the impact is worse. Sitting excessively can also increase the risk of herniated disks due to less expansion and contraction of spinal disks which occurs during standing.
"Normally people who sit for long hours also have weak abdomens and are more prone to fat belly issues. Standing requires a person to tense their abdominal muscles, which go unused when we sit, which ultimately leading to weak abdomens and tight glutes. Therefore the exercise plan must focus on core strengthening and glute and hamstring strengthening and flexibility, said Dr Trebinjac.
He recommended that people who sit for long hours should first get their office ergonomics right. "The basic idea is to ensure you do not bend your neck forward and this is possible when you lift your computer screen to your eye level so that your neck is in the neural position and your back is not slouched in front of the screen. To do this, you can buy a laptop screen lifter, a separate keypad with wrist support so that your wrists are not inclined due to a heightened platform. Finally the chair should be comfortable and you can use lumber support cushions to protect your back."
Once you get the office ergonomics right, the next step said Dr Trebinjac is taking regular breaks away from the computer screen.
Dr Isam Al Mikhi, specialist physiotherapist at the centre said: "A one minute break is not enough. Regular breaks should be taken every 45 minutes to an hour and should be at least five minutes. This is very important to prevent body pain and stiffness."
"The last thing a person should do during this break is look at their smartphones. It's a break from the chair and all forms of technology."
The third step is to do stretching exercises during this break. Dr Al Mikhi added: "Neck, shoulder and back stretching couples with a few minutes of standing or walking around will definitely help prevent these problems provided the office ergonomics is right."
He also said that people working on computers at home or even at office should try using a fit ball for a few hours instead of a chair.
"Additionally, people need to exercise regularly. I would strongly advise at least 30 minutes of walking, jogging or any kind of aerobic activity everyday. Ideally plan a weekly exercise routine which includes both aerobic and anaerobic forms of exercise," he said.
Steps to prevent neck and back strains> Correct office ergonomics
> Regular stretching and breaks and strengthening of muscles through exercis
> Lift your computer screen to your eye level so that your neck is in the neural position and your back is not slouched in front of the screen
> A separate keypad with wrist support can also help so that your wrists are not inclined due to a heightened platform
> Chair should be comfortable and you can use lumber support cushions to protect your back