In my years as a physical therapist I’ve seen all kinds of injuries and heard all kinds of body-related complaints—some from accidents, some from surgery, and some resulting from extreme athletics. But there’s no athletic endeavor that is guaranteed to lead to injury quite like the Desk Jockey. It doesn’t matter the city or the type of therapy practice, the poor, weary Desk Jockey finds me over and over again.

The wear and tear on the body of a Desk Jockey is highly underestimated except, of course, by a physical therapist. We receive reports of neck pain, back pain, leg pain, tingling, and it confirms what we believe most: humans are just not meant to sit in the same position for 8 or 9 or 10-plus hours per day. Nor are they designed to wake up and repeat this pattern day after day. So what’s a Desk Jockey to do?

Here are five tips to help ease those daily aggravators and to prevent you from joining the party.

  1. Set your workstation up properly. This is a critical step. And the first part is to set yourself up first. Then you can arrange the rest of your workstation around you. There are specific guidelines for what works best, and many resources available online that can help. Though it’s best to have a personal workstation ergonomic evaluation.
  2. Move. While it can be hard to take a break from the task at hand, it does wonders for the body. Changing your position will relieve your neck, back, shoulders, hips, knees (shall I continue?) from stiffness and strain by changing how gravity is pushing down on you and increasing blood circulation to those areas. You don’t have to take a 5-minute break every 30 minutes. Work the positional changes into your day. If you’re on a phone call, stand up for a moment. Stand up and walk once around your chair every 20 minutes. Put your printer on the other side of your office or in a location where you have to stand up and move to it, not just reach. If you need an additional reminder, drink lots of water throughout the day… that will be sure to get you out of your chair at least a few times.
  3. Stretch your arms and wrists. And get the pressure off of them… If you spend several hours per day typing, there are common finger and wrist muscles that get used over and over again. Repeated use can cause stress and strain if not managed well. Muscles used day after day  will greatly benefit from a break during the workday. Try these 2 stretches for some relief.  san francisco sport and spine physical therapy wrist stretches
  4. Get a foam roller. Rolling out your upper back at the beginning or end of the work day might become your new favorite thing to do. If you think I’m kidding, try it once.  Using the foam roller loosens up your mid-back and helps you achieve better posture. Just make sure to start out slow doing only 1-2 minutes at a time. More can make you sore if you’re not used to it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_WFW_NvcAk
  5. Sleep before repeating. Getting a good night’s rest is also a great chance to give your back and neck some support and relief for as long as you’re lucky enough to remain horizontal. If you sleep on your back, place a small pillow or rolled towel under your knees, which will help your spine maintain its neutral curves.

Finally, what  do you do if those nagging, aching body parts keep you from focusing on your daily tasks? See your physician or physical therapist for specific recommendations to address your individual needs. The Desk Jockey’s days are challenging enough without unnecessary distractions from your neck. Or your back. Or your fingers and wrists.

– Nicole Haas, PT, DPT, OCS, san francisco sport and spine physical therapy

To speak to a physical therapist about ergonomics or work related pain, call 415-593-2532.

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