Updated: Mar 9
Office life can be painful – in more ways than one! Whether it's tension in your shoulders, pain in your hips, or a pounding headache, you know how achy your body can feel at the end of the work day.
Pain in the Neck (and everywhere else!)
Desk jobs aren’t without physical demands. If you notice tension in your neck and right shoulder after spending time at your computer, lower your mouse to the keyboard drop-tray rather than having it on your desk. Keeping it on the drop-tray creates a better angle for your joints, thereby minimizing muscle aches. You can also reduce neck pain when typing by using a document holder to stand papers upright. Holding your head straight instead of hanging it forwards to look down at papers reduces potential strain in neck muscles.
Typing and other repetitive actions of the hand and wrist can also lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, with symptoms like pain, tingling and numbness. Before you begin in the morning, rotate your wrists and stretch your palms and fingers to warm up, and take a few breaks throughout the day. Keeping your keyboard at elbow height or slightly lower, so that your wrists are held at a fairly neutral angle, will also reduce your risk of developing the condition (Mayo Clinic, 2017).
Stressing the Pain
With tight deadlines, demanding targets, and threats of downsizing, you’ve likely experienced some level of workplace stress. Research has shown that pain is aggravated by stress, since it reduces the body’s ability to control inflammation. Not only can pain be worsened by stress, but studies have shown that stress can actually be the root cause of chronic pain (Babbel, 2010). The stress hormone cortisol is involved in inflammation regulation, and when there's a dysfunction in cortisol due to chronic stress, it can contribute to chronic pain. That's right, your musculoskeletal pain can be a hormone issue!
The stress-pain connection shows how crucial it is to adopt some stress-relieving practices. When you feel you’re about to boil over, step away from the computer, phone, or whatever the stressor may be! Take a 5 minute walk, or even just stand up to stretch. This small act can help you recenter and allows you to address the problem in a more calm and deliberate way. And as difficult as it might be, take on only what you can manage, and ask your boss for extensions when it is just to do so. When you don’t feel overstretched, you will be able to perform much better.
Lunchtime provides a great opportunity to reduce workplace pain, both in what you eat and how you spend your break. Pain happens due to your body’s inflammatory response, so minimize your intake of inflammatory foods like sugar, dairy, gluten, meat and corn, while feasting on anti-inflammatory foods like veggies, fruits, and specifically pineapple. Chronic pain can also be controlled with the help of cauliflower, cherries, and kiwi (Borigini, 2011). And when it’s time to eat your anti-inflammatory lunch, take it outside! Spending just 15 minutes in nature can reduce inflammation (Shaffer, 2017), thereby lessening pain.
Call in the Back-up
Even if you’ve adopted these nutrition and lifestyle tips, you might find the pain is still too much. Consulting with a Naturopathic Doctor can help identify underlying causes of pain, and provide you with targeted therapeutics to minimize inflammation and improve your quality of life. Your treatment plan will be individualized to your life, meditators of pain, and individual biochemistry.
Relax and Repair
Dr. Irwin also provides Bowen therapy treatments for her patients, which is a gentle physical therapy used to reduce the body's pain and stress response to allow for healing to take place. Commonly treated issues include sciatica, neck and shoulder pain, headaches and migraines, endometriosis pain, and stress and anxiety.
Originally written for Healthy Directions magazine.
Click to learn more about:
Babbel, Susanne. “The Connections Between Emotional Stress, Trauma, and Physical Pain.” 2010.
Borigini, Mark. “Nutrition and Chronic Pain.” Psychology Today. 2011.
Mayo Clinic. “Carpal tunnel syndrome self-management.” 2017.
Originally written for Healthy Directions magazine. URL: http://healthydirections.ca/ease-office-pains/