Monday, April 15, 2013

Productivity Pains: New Survey Finds Majority of American Office Workers Experience Physical Pain at Work

Photo: David Castillo Dominici/

New research released today by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) reveals that the majority of Americans who work in an office are experiencing physical pain with some frequency. In fact, the new survey indicates 2 in 3 office workers have experienced physical pain in the last six months, and nearly 1 in 4 believe it’s just a standard part of having an office job. This misconception can lead office workers to ignore or under-treat their pain, creating a debilitating cycle that results in chronic, or reoccurring pain. Chronic pain is a serious public health issue affecting 100 million Americans today – impacting more people than cancer, diabetes and heart disease combined.

To address the issue, the AOA launches a new phase of the “Break Through Your Pain” public education campaign to help office workers be productive and pain-free with the tips, tools and advice they need to prevent and relieve 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, DO, an AOA board-certified family physician with Aria Health System in Philadelphia and co-spokesperson for the “Break Through Your Pain” campaign. “I want to encourage everyone to get up and move! Take the long route to the printer or walk up the stairs instead of using the elevator. Making these small changes now will have a great impact on your overall health.”

Workplace Pain Triggers

The office environment offers numerous opportunities to trigger physical pain, including the five-plus hours that 70% of office workers spend sitting at their desks each day.  Nearly all (94%) office workers can name work habits that boost their chances of pain. Topping the list are:
  • Hunching over a desk (61%)
  • Sitting in an uncomfortable chair (58%)
  • Staring at a computer monitor (46%)
  • Using a computer mouse (38%)
Technological advances have made us less mobile, as people work more hours than ever before behind desks and on smart phones. Remaining sedentary throughout the day is the most common habit among office workers, with 2 in 5 admitting they wouldn’t get up from their desks if they needed to talk to a colleague. Even when they arrive home, staying active isn’t a priority. Half of all office workers work out fewer than 30 minutes each day, if at all. 

Consider the following tips when sitting at your desk to prevent pain and become more active throughout the workday:

Get Up and Get Moving

1. Listen to Mom, Don’t Slouch: Sit up straight and don’t hunch over your computer to engage your abdominal muscles and reduce strain on your back.
2. Keep Feet Flat on the Floor: Put both feet flat on the floor and the rest of your body will respond and improve your posture.
3. Keep Those Eyes Straight Ahead: Place your computer monitor to where the top of the screen is at eye level to reduce strain on your neck muscles.
4. Avoid The Mouse Trap: As you type and move your mouse, make sure your elbows stay close to your body and your wrists are not bending too far forwards or backwards. 
5. Get Up, Stand Up: Set an alert on your calendar or phone for every 30 minutes to remind yourself to take a stretch break.
6. Visit a Neighbor: Walk to a colleague’s desk to speak with him or her in-person, instead of emailing or calling. For longer conversations, hold a walking meeting.
7. Take the Road Less Traveled: If possible, don’t take the elevator when you arrive at the office, take a few extra minutes to climb the stairs to get your blood flowing. 

“Whether pain is caused by habits at work or at home, it can have a significant physical and psychological impact. That’s why it’s so important to find a physician you feel comfortable speaking with who can effectively treat your pain,” said Lisa A. DeStefano, DO, an AOA board-certified family physician in East Lansing, Mich. and co-spokesperson for the “Break Through Your Pain” campaign. “Since every individual is different, a physician can help develop a personalized pain management plan that best fits your life in and outside the office.” 

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