Office Syndrome is not a disease but a group of symptoms that occur due to wrong posture or prolonged sitting.
Office syndrome is typically seen in persons who work for long hours in offices, sitting in the same position and working in front of computer screens.
Causes of Office Syndrome
Office syndrome can occur in any person who remains in the same position for long periods of time or sits or stands in a wrong posture.
It is called office syndrome as it is commonly observed in people who work in an office and sit at the desk for long hours.
A poor working environment whether at the office or at home is a major cause of office syndrome.
Inappropriate height of the table and incorrect positioning of the computer and/or keyboard leads to the wrong posture.
Long duration sitting, slouching forward or sitting hunchbacked causes constant muscle contraction leading to muscle strain. Over a long period of time, this results in weak core muscles and strain in muscle groups of shoulder, neck, and back.
Muscle strain from repeated clicking of the mouse can lead to pain in the wrist and fingers.
Dry eyes and headaches can result from staring at computer screens for long hours.
Sitting with legs crossed or standing with the weight on one side causes one leg to continuously apply weight on the other. This can cause aches and cramps affecting the spine in the long run.
Sitting on the edge of the seat without proper support to the back, sitting up in bed to read or watch television are other causes of office syndrome.
People who perform hard physical work and carry heavy loads on their backs can also suffer from muscle aches and fatigue. Even carrying heavy school bags by school children can lead to office syndrome.
In females, the regular wearing of high heels (> 1.5 inches high) can cause the spine to become misaligned leading to backache.
All these health problems can ultimately lead to psychological symptoms such as depression, fatigue or inability to sleep.
Symptoms of Office Syndrome
Initially, the symptoms are mild initially and disappear with rest. However, if ignored or left untreated, they can become serious and quite disabling.
The most common symptoms of office syndromeinclude:
- Backache, neck pain, shoulder pain, and knee pain
- Chronic muscle pain
- Numbness of fingers, arms, and feet
- Tendonitis including De Quervain’s tenosynovitis and Tennis elbow
- Soreness around the eyes
- Dry eyes
- Feelings of sadness or depression
Depending upon the severity and duration, symptoms of office syndrome are divided into three levels.
Level 1: There is mild pain during work but it gets better with rest and a night of sound sleep. The pain is neither continuous nor severe enough to interfere with work.
Level 2: The pain begins with mild activity and does not recover fully with rest. There may be associated with swelling, weakness or numbness in the affected area. It may lead to diminished work performance or sleep disturbances.
Level 3: The pain occurs even at rest and interferes with sleep. Work performance is severely affected. The symptoms may persist for a long time and require urgent medical treatment.
Treatment of Office Syndrome
The most important part of treatment involves understanding the real cause of the problem and trying to rectify it.
It is much easier to take measures to prevent office syndrome rather than to treat it once the symptoms develop.
Treatment includes lifestyle changes, adopting good posture, creating a happy and friendly working environment and taking care of one’s body.
Adopt correct posture
Good posture involves training one’s body to sit, stand, walk, and lie so that there is the least strain on muscles and ligaments.
- One should sit up straight with the shoulders rolled back.
- The buttocks should touch the back of the chair.
- All 3 normal back curves should be present while sitting. Using a small, rolled-up towel can help to maintain the normal curves in the back.
- Distribute your body weight equally on both hips and both legs. Do not sit cross-legged.
- Bend your knees at a right angle. Keep your knees at a slightly higher level than your hips. A footrest or stool can be used for this purpose.
- Adjust the height of the chair and work station such that you don’t have to slouch your back.
- Keep your elbows and arms on the desk so as keep your shoulders relaxed.
- If you are sitting in a revolving chair, don’t twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body to change direction.
- When standing up from the sitting position, slide to the front of the chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Don’t bend forward at your waist.
- To pick up an object from the floor, keep your back straight and bend at your knees and hips. Do not bend forward at the waist with your knees straight.
- While sleeping, use a pillow of such a thickness that allows your head to be in a normal position. The pillow should be under your head and not under the shoulders.
- Try to sleep in a position that helps you maintain the curve in your back (such as on your back with a pillow under your knees or on your side with your knees slightly bent).
- The mattress used should be a firm and should not sag.
- When standing up from the lying position, turn on your side, draw up both knees and swing your legs on the side of the bed. Sit up by pushing yourself up with your hands. Avoid bending forward at your waist.
Adjust the position of your desktop (or laptop or file or book) such that you don’t have to bend forward or slouch. The computer mouse and keyboard should be directly in front of you, with a level at or slightly below your line of sight. Standing work desks can also help to maintain good posture.
Ergonomics is the process of designing or arranging workplaces, products, and systems so as to maintain people’s efficiency in the working environment. Desk ergonomics especially focuses on the work station.
Make exercise a routine. Try to exercise for a period of 30 minutes to 1 hour at least 3-4 times a week. Include exercises that help to strengthen the core muscles. This could include various yoga postures or other exercises.
Take Short Breaks Frequently
As a rule, you should not be sitting in one place for more than half an hour. Make a routine to get up after every 30 minutes, walk or stretch a little before resuming work.
In case your work involves staring at the computer screen for a long time, you can follow a useful trick called the 20-20-20 rule to prevent eye strain. It simply means that every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
One must visit a specialist doctor for proper assessment of injuries and their appropriate treatment. For severe pain, treatment includes rest, local massage, hot fomentation, pain-relieving medicines, etc.
It includes rest to the affected area with immobilization.
Massage helps ease sore muscles and improve blood flow.
It also relieves pain by increasing the blood flow to the affected area.
These can help to relieve pain. However, they should not be used for a long duration. Their main use lies in getting immediate relief from pain. For long term relief, one should concentrate on changing lifestyle, adopting good posture and regular exercise.