“Deskjob Syndrome” is by no means a diagnostic term with a specific set of criteria. It is a colloquial term thrown around in conversation with patients, when they have a particular set of symptoms and a particular set of weekly activities… or lack of activity…. To be exact!
Dr Google uses related terms such as Silicon Valley Syndrome(1 and Text Neck Syndrome(2. They all refer to similar mechanisms of injury or sources of pain and are all broadly caused by some form of inactivity and prolonged poor posture. There are many other health issues that are being linked to Deskjob Syndrome1, but here we look at the musculoskeletal effect it is having on our bodies.
A typical patient presenting with DeskJob Syndrome, may complain of aches and pains between their shoulder blades, across the tops of their shoulders, and potentially up into their neck. The more serious cases may have progressed to headaches on top of that. It depends on the individual, symptoms will vary, and other lifestyle factors will potentially play a role, such as stress levels. Depending on the age of the patient and how many years that have been practicing DeskJob Syndrome will also affect the severity of symptoms. If pain or sensation is being felt down the arms then it is time to get assessed by your healthcare practitioner to determine the source of your problem and get back on the road to good health!
Putting aside all the time spent sitting outside of work, if we roughly look at the percentage of time we spend sitting each week, in a desk confined job, 33% of our week will be spent sitting, based on a ‘conservative’ 40 hour work week. If we add in commuting time, approximately 1 hour per day, again conservative, that brings us up to 38%. It may seem low, but that is based on a 24 hour day, where another 33% is spent sleeping… hopefully! Thus, leaving only 29% of our time to reverse the effects of the 71% of sedentariness! That’s quite a task.
Maintaining a good supportive posture throughout the workday can be difficult for any of us. What happens when we don’t take breaks, stretch, or even walk during this time is that the muscles will eventually fatigue, this is when we begin to slouch forward, prop ourselves up on our elbows or perhaps slide a little further down our chair to find a more comfortable slouch position! For some people this is when you feel the burning sensation of those muscles between the shoulders, in our necks, or down alongside our spine, this is a signal to get up and move even if only for 5 minutes.
There are of course many resources available, depending on your workspace. Some are lucky enough to have an interchangeable sitting-standing desk. These are great in that they provide variety for our posture during a workday. It doesn’t mean you should stand all day, because that can have similar postural consequences. Its all about moderation and variation; sit, stand, walk, jog, bend and stretch!
Many workplaces can also offer an ergonomic specialist to come and set up your workstation, so that keyboard, screen, desk, and chair are all set at the correct position and height for your dimensions. Take advantage of such resources and this should make life a little easier.
In the end it comes down to trying to counterbalance the sedentary aspect of our lives with a more active part. A quick reference list below may help to provide you with a guide of things you can do, in no particular order:
· Get your workstation set up correctly, ask for help if needed.
· Take regular breaks during the day, set an alarm to remind yourself
· Vary your working posture if you have access to sitting and standing workstations
· Take lunch outside, or go for a walk if you have time
· Try to partake in the recommended amount of daily exercise doing an activity that you enjoy
· Seek advice from a healthcare practitioner if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned in this article
2. Chiropractic Association of Australia; http://www.backyourinnerathlete.com.au/back-yourself/about-text-neck