Technology Can Hurt.
When quarantine started, many of us began working from home.
As we have been in quarantine for nearly 2 months now... I am hearing from a lot of people who are experiencing neck, shoulder, and arm and hand pain from sitting at makeshift workstations that are not ergonomically sound.
These home-made workstations are causing many of us to sit and work for long periods of time with poor posture and poor body alignment that is causing joint dysfunction and pain. I had written a newsletter a few years ago that discussed how technology affects our posture and is the culprit in many neck and back pain syndromes and can wreak havoc on our hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders as well. Unfortunately, with COVID19 and the stay at home mandate, the effects of technology on our bodies is much more profound.
Additionally, because we are at home, we are all spending more time on our devices than usual (whether work-related or not) and as a result, our hands, wrists, elbows, and even our shoulders get a huge work out daily. With that many keystrokes and mouse clicks, we are putting ourselves at risk, not only for pain related to our posture at our workstations, but also for developing repetitive stress injuries in the arm or aggravating existing painful conditions.
In this letter, I will discuss how our home-made work stations and work environments are affecting our posture and alignment and what we can do for our “tech pain”.
WHAT IS BIOMECHANICAL ALIGNMENT?
Biomechanics is the study of the mechanics of the body, especially of the forces exerted by muscles and gravity on the skeletal structure. Biomechanical alignment is the ideal state of the body, where our joints and muscles are positioned for maximum function.
I believe most musculoskeletal and neuromuscular issues involving pain in the body are initially caused by faulty biomechanical alignment.
WHY IS BIOMECHANICAL ALIGNMENT SO IMPORTANT?
It is imperative that your muscles and joints are properly aligned to function well. Normal movement depends on proper biomechanical alignment.
Sound alignment allows your muscles and joints to function without excess stress on them and may delay degenerative changes that occur in your joints and muscles over time. Additionally, If you find that you are not moving well or that you have pain, other structures in the body have to compensate for those that are not aligned properly and, therefore, not working well.
This compensation can lead to additional shearing, stress, and load on your neuromuscular and musculoskeletal system, which includes your fascia, muscles, nerves, joints, and connective tissue. Working in environments that are not ergonomically sound can change your alignment resulting in poor posture, faulty movement patterns, and pain.
POOR POSTURE AT YOUR WORKSTATION CAN CAUSE THE FOLLOWING:
1. Neck Pain:
Poor head alignment at your workstation can cause muscle spasm in any or all of your neck muscles resulting in localized or radiating pain.
2. Cervical Radiculitis:
Poor head and neck position at your workstation can cause bulging of the discs that are located between your vertebrae in your neck. When a disc is bulging, it often presses up against a nerve root, and this may cause intense radiating pain into the shoulder, arm, and hand.
Poor head position in sitting may cause shortening and spasming of the muscles that are located at the base of your skull. This muscle shortening may pinch your occipital nerve as it passes through these muscles, causing a headache characterized by pain in the front of your forehead.
4. Jaw Pain and TMJ:
Poor head and neck alignment may cause shortening and spasm of the muscles that lie on the sides of the neck, which may place tension on the temporomandibular joint, affecting its alignment. This may cause jaw pain and TMJ dysfunction.
5. Shoulder Pain:
Sitting at a poorly designed workstation may cause a forward shoulder posture. This causes tightness in the pectoralis muscles of the shoulder and weakness in the rotator cuff muscles resulting in poor shoulder alignment. This may cause shoulder joint dysfunction and pain, specifically with overhead movement.
6. Upper Back Pain:
Sitting with poor posture causes rounding of the upper back and spasm in the upper back muscles that lie on either side of the spine resulting in pain.
7. Upper Extremity Conditions:
Poor sitting posture and poor workstation design may cause painful syndromes in the arm and hand such as
a. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Carpal tunnel syndrome is the inflammation of the tendons and the median nerve, which all pass through the carpal tunnel in the wrist. This may be caused by your desk, chair and/or keyboard not being at the right height causing your wrists to be excessively bent while you type.
b. Cubital Tunnel Syndrome: Cubital tunnel syndrome is increased tension in the cubital tunnel through which the ulnar nerve passes in the elbow. This is your funny bone spot! Cubital tunnel syndrome may be caused by resting your elbow on a desk that is not the right height while working on a computer or keeping your arm bent at an acute angle to use a computer mouse, which may be on a desk that is too high.
c. Dequervain’s Tendonitis: Dequervain’s Tendonitis is the inflammation of the extensor and abductor tendons of the thumb. This condition can also result from poor positioning of your desk, chair and/or keyboard.
HOW CAN PHYSICAL THERAPY HELP?
In these challenging times, many of us are working from home and have workstations that are not ergonomically sound. This is taking a huge toll on our bodies.
BUT... physical therapy can help and is paramount to restoring normal biomechanical alignment for proper posture, normal movement patterns, and pain-free function.
As we remain in quarantine, all assessment and treatment is remote. I am up and running doing remote physical therapy sessions on Zoom.
I will perform a thorough assessment of your issue AND and ergonomic evaluation of your workstation and then will put together a comprehensive treatment plan that will include self- mobilization techniques, posture re-education, neuromuscular re-education, and workstation modification that will help to ease your pain.
Please reach out to me. I can help you!