4 Ways to Keep Your Body Healthy & Pain-Free if You Have a Desk Job

woman with neck pain at a computer
Millions of Americans spend 40+ hours per week tip-tapping away at a desk job, often followed by a sit down dinner, a night of Netflix, or curling up with a favorite book in the recliner. It’s hard to argue with the fact that, as a whole, we all spend too much time sitting—and it can have a huge impact on our overall health.

But how do you counteract the damage to your body while still getting in a required 8 hours of productivity? Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to offset the dangers of prolonged sitting—and feel better in the process!

1. Plan your workspace for optimal comfort

While nothing trumps getting up and moving around (more on that later), there are a number of small changes you can make to your desk and workspace to help improve ergonomics for your comfort and health.

There are a few guidelines for setting up your desk, chair, and peripherals in a way that doesn’t leave you hunched over your keyboard.

  • According to the American Chiropractic Association, you can reduce your risk of a number of issues, like back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome, by simply having your desk at the correct height. Find the right chair height for you by standing in front of your chair and adjusting it so that the top of the seat or cushion hits right below your kneecap.
  • If you can’t fit your legs under your desk with your chair at this height or need to lift your arms up to reach your keyboard and mouse, your desk is too low. Replace the desk or put it on risers if it isn’t adjustable.
  • If you work on a laptop, invest in a separate mouse and keyboard so you can keep both your keyboard and your screen at the right height. Hint: it’s not the same height, and you’ll find yourself either hunching over your laptop or uncomfortably holding your arms to reach the keyboard.
  • Using a thick book, monitor stand, or laptop stand, elevate your monitor so that the top of your screen is at or slightly below eye level and at least 20 inches away from your eyes. This will help prevent eye strain and keep your neck at a comfortable angle.
  • Your keyboard and mouse should be about one or two inches above your thighs so you can rest your hands comfortably without having to reach.

This nifty workspace planner from Ergotron can help you figure out exact measurements based on your height.

2. Consider a different type of desk

As the world becomes more aware of the dangers of sitting, companies are innovating new products and changing our traditional ideas of what desks should look like.

A standing desk is a great way to break up periods of sitting while still being able to continue your work. They come in a variety of styles, from entire desks to risers that can be placed on your existing desk. These products can usually transition easily from sitting to standing, so you can alternate throughout the day.

For those who take their movement seriously, treadmill desks take standing desks a few steps further—quite literally. These desks allow you to walk or jog as you compose your next email or have a video conference.

3. Take sitting from passive to active

Like the untraditional desks above, there’s no rule that states workers can only sit sedentary in typical office chairs. Simple solutions, like yoga balls, can help you work your core and get some movement in throughout your day.

If you’re unsure if you are coordinated enough for an exercise ball or want to upgrade your experience, balance ball chair kits can offer the same benefits without the fear of rolling yourself right onto the floor.

To really make your sitting active—but not quite as active as the treadmill desk—check out some of these products designed to help you keep your legs moving throughout the day:

  • Hovr: Keep your body in motion, burn calories,and  improve your health while you work through leg movement.
  • DeskCycle: Portable pedal exercisers fit easily under your desk and allow you pedal away as you work, improving circulation. You can also pedal with your arms to help get your entire body moving.
  • Anti-Fatigue Mat: Whether sitting or standing, an anti-fatigue comfort floor mat can keep your feet busy and fidgeting throughout the day.
  • Foot rocker: Another product to keep your feet and lower legs in motion. Not only does it help reduce foot pain, the idle fidgeting is purportedly great for focus.

4. Take a jaunt: Small bursts of movement will benefit you

Even a small amount of movement every hour or so can make a huge difference. Leaving your desk periodically to take a small jaunt around the office or stretch can minimize the impact of sitting for long periods.

We know you’re busy at work, but try setting a timer for every hour reminding you to go refill your water, stand up and stretch, or visit a co-worker. If a lull in work typically has you craving a less-than-healthy snack, break the habit and tackle these simple desk exercises instead.

Shake things up by scheduling your next one-on-one with a co-worker as a walking meeting. In warm weather, take a stroll around the street while you discuss projects or plan for a client meeting. If it’s chilly or dreary out, loop the office if it won’t disrupt others. Not only is this great for physical activity, being in a different environment is also a fantastic way to get the creative juices flowing.

Bonus tip: Get a little expert help if you’re in pain

If your constant sitting or desk setup have left you in chronic pain, don’t put off visiting your doctor. Here at Carolina Hand & Sports Medicine, we work with many desk job employees who are suffering from joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other conditions caused by sitting hunched over a desk. If this sounds familiar, we encourage you to contact us today and get started on a pain-free life—9 to 5 and beyond!

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