From the Institute of Osteopathy – Health at Work – D Murgatroyd

Are you fit for work? If your work is office or computer based, you can spend a significant portion of your day seated at a desk which can lead to a host of health problems.

Common causes of strain in the workplace include:
• Prolonged sitting at a desk
• Driving long distances
• Awkward lifting and carrying
• Overstretching
• Bending
• Extended periods of repetitive motion
• Using a computer without taking breaks

With a few changes and the addition of good habits, you can stay productive at work and remain healthy.

Sit well

It is really important when working at your desk that you are mindful of your posture and your equipment is correctly set-up.

Things to look out for include:
• Is your screen at eye level? If your monitor does not have height adjustment try elevating it with a riser, or even some old books
• Keep your mouse close. It’s easy for your mouse to drift away from you when working, make sure you are not over-stretching to reach it
• Keep your keyboard close. You should be able to sit up in your chair, have your elbows in an L-shape and still be able to reach your keyboard. If you are overstretching to reach it, you will need to make adjustments
• Adjust your chair. You should be able to sit right back into your chair, so your lower back is supported while still comfortably accessing your equipment
• Feet to the floor. The height of your chair should allow your feet to easily reach flat to the floor. Use some form of riser if needed
 • Avoid crossing your legs. It can cause circulation problems and puts unnecessary strain through your lower back.

If you are unsure about your desk or workstation set-up, ask your employers to provide a workstation assessment.

Regularly re-set your posture

While you may start off in the correct position it can be very easy to drift into a slouched position at your desk. Try putting a sticky note on your monitor as a reminder to re-set your posture every time you see it.

Take regular breaks

It is recommended that you should take a break from your desk every 30 minutes for at least one or two minutes. Try building in some of these good habits into your working day.
• Stand-up and move around for a few moments around your desk
• Take the opportunity to get a drink of water, which also helps you keep hydrated
• Rather than phoning an office colleague, can you walk over to talk to them?
• When on the phone, can you take the call standing up rather than sitting?

Laptop working

Many of us now work on laptops, particularly mobile or remote workers or those who hot-desk across offices. The same advice applies when working at a laptop, even more so if you don’t have the luxury of an adjustable chair or monitor.
• If you are mainly working on a laptop you may want to consider getting a wireless keyboard and/or risers so you can optimise your work posture.
• Also consider where you work – your dining room table may be convenient but if it is at an incorrect height, extended working may cause shoulder, neck or back pain.

Advice for physical work

If your work involves lifting or more physical activities, you need to be careful that you are not putting yourself at risk of injury or long-term health problems.
One of the biggest causes of back injury at work is due to lifting incorrectly.

Additionally, continuous repetitive activities, or staying in the same position for extended periods of time, can also lead to pain and discomfort. Being aware of how to move correctly when at work can keep you healthy for longer and keep you safe from injury.

How can your osteopath help?

Your osteopath can provide you with a fit note if you do need to take time off from work. You can discuss with your osteopath the physical impact work may have on you and agree on a course of action that may help. Along with hands-on osteopathy manual treatment, your osteopath may also offer advice on posture, lifting and workplace ergonomics.

Osteopaths are highly trained, healthcare professionals, regulated by law and recognised as one of the Allied Health Professions by NHS England. Osteopathic care is a safe and effective therapy that aims to promote the health of people, through the use of manual therapy, exercise and health advice. It is suitable for all ages, from babies to the elderly.

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