Is Sitting At Your Desk Is Killing You?

Poor Posture, Your New Desk & Your Business’ Bottom Line

Todd M. Narson, DC, DACBSP

You go to work, you sit and meet with clients, you work on your computer and life goes on. But what if how you sit-or-not sit at your computer could affect your company’s bottom line?

We’ve all heard in recent times that sitting throughout the day can one of the root causes of back pain. But did you know that prolonged sitting can be detrimental to your longevity?  In her book, Sitting Kills Moving Heals, author Joan Vernikos, PhD., exposes how the modern sedentary lifestyle contributes to poor health, obesity and diabetes. She sites her original research as a NASA scientist having studied the effects of weightlessness on astronaut’s muscles, bones and overall health.

The modern day sedentary lifestyle of sitting at computers and working 8-12 hours/day is a long way from our hunter-gatherer roots. As a consequence, prolonged sitting leads to postural changes that cause neck pain, headaches and lower back pain at epidemic proportions.

According to “Presenteeism: At Work-But Out of It” published in the Harvard Business Review (2004), a worker productivity study at Lockheed Martin Corp., found that employees that came to work with common musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain, headaches, arthritis as well as colds and flu cost the company $34-million in one year. Take the $1.8 from allergies, colds and sinus trouble out of the picture and you still have $32 million dollars of lost productivity from musculoskeletal pain.

So, now we know that a sitting-sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to your health, leads to aches and pains and that those aches and pains cause you to be less productive at work; all costing your business in productivity, quality and eventually reputation. Now what?

The Ergonomic Work Space: A Good Place To Start

For as long as I can remember, the chiropractic profession has been on the forefront of the posture debate. Poor posture leads to poor function, poor function leads to pain, pain leads to poor productivity. The productivity depends on your profession, but for the majority of people, it’s doing some kind of desk-computer work.  So you decide to get a nice ergonomic chair. Eventually,  you match it with a fancy ergonomic desk. Now you have a chair with a more supportive back, 5 point caster base, arm rests that can be raised or lowered to fit your proper positioning, a monitor-mouse-keyboard that can be positioned in front of you AND at the push of a button, can raise to provide you with a standing desk. You’ve got all the right technology and you’re ready to combat Presenteeism and fight back those nasty aches and pains. Or are you?

Even with the most expensive custom ergonomic workspace, you can only mitigate the effects of a poor workspace. You cannot reverse the damage done by poor posture from a poor workspace. You can remove some of the bad stressors with stressors that aren’t as bad, but to push things back in the other direction is going to take a little physical effort done on a frequent basis.  While the ideal ergonomic workspace is a great place to start, there’s more to the picture than meets the eye.

Upper & Lower Crossed Syndromes: The Technical Term For Bad Posture

Upper Crossed, Lower Crossed & Layered Crossed Syndromes were discovered by Dr. Vladimir Janda in 1979, by identifying patterns of muscle imbalance. Dr. Janda based on his clinical observations and research, and theorized that muscle imbalances were predictable and involved the entire motor system.

Clinically, I have discovered x-rays from patients with Whiplash injuries and x-rays from patients with Upper Crossed “poor posture” Syndrome are nearly identical. So the muscle imbalances cause structural changes to your body due to repetitive stresses from poor work ergonomics.  Think about it for a minute. A doctor sets a broken bone, puts a cast on it and after 6-8 weeks, the cast holding the bone in the proper position allows the bone to heal straight. You sit at your desk for 8-10-12 hours per day and do this day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year. This causes your body to mold your posture according to your work environment.

Unfortunately, this posture doesn’t work so well for you by over stressing your joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments and your proprioceptors.  What are proprioceptors? They are tiny little neurologic organs in and around your joints relaying information to your brain about what your body parts are doing. When a body part misbehaves, it notifies the brain causing your brain to take some type of compensatory action. Eventually it gets to the point where this compensation compromises normal function and wallah-you’re in pain!

Imagine trying to get through a business meeting, a sales talk, closing arguments or proofreading an important report while you have a nagging aching stiff neck or back? Think you can concentrate and be your 100% best? Probably not. And, that 2004 article in the Harvard Business Review (and many other since then) prove it. Your aches and pains are costing you and your company money.

3 STEPS TO FIXING BAD POSTURE

  1. Ergonomic Work Space & Proper Fitting.
    • It’s not good enough to simply get your ergonomic work space, you need to be properly fitted for it once it arrives.  Yes, definitely spend the extra money and get the best option you can afford. After all, you’ll be spending a good portion of your life there. But realize that each person’s body and job functions are unique and can present a multitude of nuances that can affect you.
  2. Postural Stretches & Exercises
    • There are some specific exercises and stretches that you should be doing a few times throughout the day. They can be done pretty quickly, but they are very important. The ergonomic work place reduces the stress on your body, but the exercises can directly affect the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints affected and help to reverse and restore them.
  3. Posture Supports
    • Posture supports are available to help mold your posture into better positioning. Wearing these devices a few times per day will assist the exercises in bringing your posture back to normal.

Final Thoughts

All businesses have their own needs and their own unique ergonomics. The physical stresses of someone that sits at a desk and works on a computer throughout the day is much different than someone that works on an assembly line.  Just as each has their unique ergonomics, each has their own physical stressors and injury profile.  A unique approach should be taken with each business to address its unique needs.

Scheduling a 30-minute lunchtime talk with you and your staff (at your business) is a great way to start the process of reigning in lost productivity costs due to back pain, neck pain, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome or other ailments.  Ultimately, it makes for a better pain free life for all involved.

Interested in having Dr. Narson speak at your company?  Just contact us:

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Dr. Narson is a 2-term past president of the Florida Chiropractic Association’s Council on Sports Injuries, Physical Fitness & Rehabilitation and was honored as the recipient of the coveted Chiropractic Sports Physician of the Year Award in 1999-2000. Dr. Narson has treated athletes at the US Olympic Training Center and the Pan American Games. He practices in Miami Beach, Florida at the Miami Beach Family & Sports Chiropractic Center; A Facility for Natural Sports Medicine.

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