New research released 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 misperception can lead office workers to ignore or undertreat 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 todayi – impacting more people than cancer, diabetes and heart disease combined.ii
To address the issue, the AOA has launched 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” — Rob Danoff, DO, AOA board-certified family physician, Aria Health System, Philadelphia, and co-spokesperson, “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 workout 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Get Up, Stand Up: Set an alert on your calendar or phone for every 30 minutes to remind yourself to take a stretch break.
- 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.
- 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” — Lisa A. DeStefano, DO, AOA board-certified family physician, East Lansing, Michigan, and co-spokesperson, “Break Through Your Pain” campaign
“That’s why it’s so important to find a physician you feel comfortable speaking with who can effectively treat your pain,” said DeStefano. “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.”
To find more information and download online pain management tools from the AOA “Break Through Your Pain” campaign, visit www.osteopathic.org/pain.
About the American Osteopathic Association
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) proudly represents its professional family of more than 100,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools; and has federal authority to accredit hospitals and other health care facilities. More information on DOs/osteopathic medicine can be found at www.osteopathic.org.
i Institute of Medicine Report from the Committee on Advancing Pain Research, Care, and Education: Relieving Pain in America, A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education and Research. The National Academies Press, 2011. http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=13172&page=1
ii NIH Fact Sheets – Pain Management. National Institute of Health, Web. 26 March 2013. http://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=57.