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Office-Related Injuries

It is not surprising that workers in physically demanding jobs, such as construction or loading, suffer injuries as a result of their work. Sometimes with over-exertion causing muscle strains or ligament tears, workers in these jobs suffer from pain, visit their family physician and subsequently undergo physical therapy. But employees in physically demanding positions aren't the only ones at risk for injuries. Office workers who sit at a desk or work at a computer for eight hours a day may not classify their jobs as "hazardous duty," but they too are exposed to conditions which can cause physical harm. For example, repetitive injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or de Quervain's disease are becoming more prevalent among computer programmers, secretaries and anyone else who uses computer keyboards for extended periods of time.

As with all medical conditions, patients who suffer from continued pain in the office should contact a family physician to address the problem.

The Causes of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

While office personnel are generally not subject to traumatic injuries at work, the repetitive and prolonged activities of sitting, typing or data entry can lead to overuse injuries. These types of injuries are particularly common in the hands, the arms, the shoulders and neck. Perhaps the most common ailment capturing widespread attention is carpal tunnel syndrome. This syndrome is a condition involving damage to the median nerve. This nerve passes along with tendons through a canal made of bones and ligaments in the wrist called the carpal tunnel. Excessive stress on these tendons may cause them to swell, thus impinging on the nerve and producing numbness, tingling and weakness of the fingers and thumbs. The factors that can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome include repetitive or awkward wrist movements, continuous finger movements or a fast work place - all of which are regularly experienced by the officer or worker.

de Quervain's Disease: An Aching Thumb

Excessive typing and strain can also contribute to tendonitis of the thumb, commonly referred to as de Quervain's disease. This disease is characterized by the inflammation of the extensor and abductor tendons of the thumb as they pass over the wrist. The tendons thicken, leading to pain with movements of the wrist of thumb. Workers who spend time with keyboards or adding machines are most susceptible to this disease. Through proper positioning, rest and ice applications, patients can work toward recovery. In serious cases, cortisone injections can decrease the inflammation of the tendons.

Common Neck Pain

Nearly all office workers experience neck and shoulder pain some time during their work. While stress is often the cause of temporary bouts of tightness and headaches, recurring pain may be the result of poor posture, or positioning at work. All too often, working at a desk means sitting back on the buttocks, with the back rounded and the head and neck thrust forward. This posture greatly increases the load on the muscles of the neck and the upper back. These conditions lead to early fatigue and pain in the neck as well as headaches.

To relieve neck pain at the office, assume a sitting position and lift the chest high, allowing the head and shoulders to fall into proper alignment. A gentle nodding of the head 15 degrees upward and downward can also release tension in the neck and back. Workers should avoid neck rolls, because these movements can pinch nerves and cause additional complications. Gentle stretches instead of swift, jerking movements are easier on the body. To benefit from the exercises, hold the stretches for 5 to 10 seconds, rather than constantly rolling the neck.

Proper Positioning: The Key to Avoiding Office Fatigue

The best defense against these overuse syndromes is proper posture and positioning. While sitting at your desk, a gentle lifting of the chest allows the head and shoulders to return to their proper position without stressing the muscles. Office workers should avoid rounding the back and instead opt for leaning forward at the hips to get closer to the desk while maintaining good head and neck alignment. Also, positioning the computer terminal to a higher location on the desk will prevent constant downward strain on the neck. Proper positioning of the keyboard can also minimize stress to the wrists and hands. As you type, the wrists should be straight with the forearms resting on the desk and the fingers should operate with minimal movements of the wrists.

Therapy Services Associates
Hours: Monday - Friday :: 8am - 5pm
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Two Offices
Google+ Link Hobbs
2700 N Grimes
Hobbs, NM 88240
(575) 392-4129
FAX (575) 392-3835

Google+ Link Lovington
Located inside Nor Lea Hospital
1600 N Main
Lovington, NM 88260
(575) 396-5227
FAX (575) 396-7193

We serve Lea and Eddy Counties in New Mexico, as well as Yoakum and Gaines Counties in West Texas.