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5 Common Symptoms of Deskbound Aches

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  • The top 5 common symptoms of deskbound aches include aches at the back of your neck, pain at the base of your thumb, headaches, tension in your lower back and numbness in your fingers.
  • Fixing these aches could be as simple as making small adjustments to your desk setup

In this age of working from home, where many of us spend our days hunched over computer screens with our shoulders rolled forward, necks strained forward and spines rounded, we are wreaking havoc on our posture, bones and joints. Our body is built to move and with prolonged sitting and work from home postures, we may become susceptible to deskbound aches. In this article, we share five common aches that desk-bound individuals may identify with and how to fix them.

5 Common Types of Deskbound Aches

deskbound aches

Deskbound Aches #1: A burning ache at the back of your neck throughout the day

What it might be: You’re constantly craning your head forward to read those chunks of text or get a better look at charts.

What to do: Raise or lower your screen such that the top of the viewing area is at or slightly below eye level. Adjust the distance of your monitor to an arm’s length away. Take frequent breaks to gently stretch your neck. This is especially so if your job requires you to spend a lot of time bent over a desk. This helps to prevent desk-job aches – in this case in the neck. Raise and lower your shoulders, do slow neck circles and pull your shoulders back while tilting your head to each side.

Deskbound Aches #2: Sharp pain at the base of your thumb

thumb painWhat you feel: a sharp pain at the base of your thumb and the inside of your hand when you turn your wrist or grasp a handle
What it might be: Usually referred to as ‘mummy thumb’, it’s common among new parents who constantly lift their children. At work, you could be aggravating it when repeatedly typing on the keyboard or overusing your mouse.

What to do: Practise the following rehabilitation exercises daily or support the wrist against a small rolled-up towel whilst typing

  1. Palm up, touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your little finger. Hold it for 6 secs then release, repeat 10 times.
  2. Hold a can in your hand with your palm facing up. Bend your wrist upward before slowly returning to the starting position. Hold for 15 secs, repeat 3 times.
  3. Squeeze a soft rubber ball and hold it for 5 seconds, do 2 sets of 15.
  4. Place a large rubber band around the outside of your thumb and fingers. Open your fingers to stretch the rubber band. Do 2 sets of 15.

Headaches towards the end of the day

Deskbound aches felt: Headaches towards the end of the day
What it might be: Cervicogenic headache. Derived from its name, it arises from the neck (cervical) and is caused by a dysfunction of the facet joints.

What to do: Support your shoulders against the back of the chair. If you are unable to sustain this support, it means the chair is too big for you and there is a need to reduce the distance between the chair and the computer. Start by either putting a stack of books under your feet to prop yourself up or a pillow at the backrest and lean back against it. Remember your muscles are not supposed to lay still for 3-5 hours at one go without moving so take regular breaks and shift between positions

Wall of tension in your lower back

Aches felt: A wall of tension in your lower back
What it might be: When sitting in a chair for a long period, there is a natural tendency to slouch over or down in the chair. This posture can overstretch the spinal ligaments and strain the discs and surrounding structures in the spine.

What to do: Ensure your back is aligned against the back of the office chair, keep your knees even with the hips and both feet flat on the floor. If you feel you are unable to lean against the back rest, the chair is too big for you! Put a pillow against the back for additional support and whenever possible, get up! Walk around and stretch as needed.

Numbness in your fingers

Deskbound aches felt: A persistent numbness, tingling or pain in your index finger, middle finger or thumb
What it might be: You may be a victim of carpal tunnel syndrome, the infamous office malady that affects those who spend the majority of their time using the mouse. Such nerve injuries are more serious and take longer to heal than tendon and muscle problems.

What to do: Check that your chair isn’t too low, forcing you to type with your wrists at an upward angle. Place one arm straight out in front of you, elbow straight with your wrist extended and fingers facing the floor. Spread your fingers slightly and use your other hand to apply gentle pressure, stretching your wrist and fingers as far as you can. Hold this for 20 secs and repeat on the other hand.

Physiotherapy Treatment for Deskbound Aches

If you are experiencing any of the above deskbound aches and would like to seek medical help – do contact us to book an appointment with our team of physiotherapists. Our therapists are experienced and able to help resolve your musculoskeletal aches and pains effectively.