Managing the Pains and Aches of Office Life with Shelley Jones

Last Editorial Review: 10/23/2003

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Does sitting in front of a workstation all day tense up your body? Are you experiencing back, neck, and shoulder pains from sitting in front of the computer? Are you worried about the aches in your arms and wrists from constant typing? Occupational health specialist Shelley Jones discusses the pains and aches of office life.

Event Date: 05/25/2000

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to WebMD Live! Our guest today is Shelley Jones, PhD, RN --

Dr. Jones: Hello!

Moderator: -- and the topic is "Managing the Pains and Aches of Office Life." Welcome, Dr. Jones!

Dr. Jones: This is Shelley L. Jones, PhD, RN, COHN-S [Certified Occupational Health Nurse Specialist]. I am a clinical specialist in occupational health nursing. I am happy to be here with you today to chat about those aches and pains that you have doing office work.

Moderator: Thanks for joining us.

Dr. Jones: Many people experience some discomforts as they work. This is usually because they stay too long in one position. It is important to vary your work tasks so that your muscles have an opportunity to recover periodically. Holding a muscle in one position too long allows waste products to build in muscle tissue. This is called static load. Static load is what happens when you carry a sack of groceries out to your car. The farther you have to walk, the heavier the sack begins to get. So it is with any kind of work that you do. The longer you stay in one position, the longer more static load you have. This leads to the aches and pains that you may be experiencing in your office work

Moderator: Dr. Jones, carpal tunnel syndrome seems to be a major concern among people who spend most of their day typing. Can this be avoided?

Dr. Jones: Yes, we're speaking about how to prevent wrist problems. I would like to encourage people to keep changing positions as often as possible. Vary the work tasks that you do every hour. Some people are able to get up and walk to a different place in their office to pick up and deliver jobs. Change your task for five minutes out of every hour. Get away from your computer briefly. Also doing some short shoulder, arm and hand exercises at your desk are very helpful

Moderator: Do ergonomic keyboards help?

Dr. Jones: Some people find that ergonomic key boards are very helpful. They allow you to keep your wrist in a straight line People should try various styles of these keyboards. Also, the variety of the mouse is a factor for some people. Using a large ball-type mouse has solved the problem for many people. I would like to say that the position in which you hold yourself at the keyboard must be changed periodically. I like to suggest that people vary the height of their chair slightly by changing it during the day several times. In addition, people can make minor modifications in their workstations. Use the 90-degree rule to check out your work space. Sit up in your chair, relax your shoulders, allow your elbows to make a 90-degree bend. Extend your fingers. Where your fingers are is the height for your work surface. Adjust your chair up or down to match your proper height. Now be sure that your hips are at a 90- degree angle. If you need a foot stool, put a book or binder on the floor. If your legs hang, additional pressure is placed on the low back. Using the 90- degree rule is beneficial for any type of seated work. Be sure to check out your chair at home for the proper height as well. Some people work at the computer all day and then go home to sit more hours at their home computers. Remember to adjust yourself and your workstation for best position -- at work and at home!

If you are experiencing some wrist discomfort, some people like to use a small wrist support attached by Velcro.  These can be purchased at any drug store or medical supply store. Another suggestion is to periodically apply ice to sore wrists at work or at home Are there other specific questions?

Moderator: How damaging can staring at a computer all day be for your eyes?

Dr. Jones: The computer isn't known to damage eyes, but many people experience some eye discomfort. Usually these are due to the fatigue of eye muscles. As with other muscles in your body, waste products build up in the muscles if you hold them in one position too long. You need to give your eyes a break for a few minutes out of each hour. Do this by looking away to a distance of 10 to 20 feet from your work area. It may be useful to have a pair of glasses that you use just for your computer work. Sometimes a trifocal is helpful. Be sure to talk with you eye care provider about the work you do. Give the eye care provider the distance that you sit away from your computer screen. Measure that distance by holding the end of a string at the bridge of your nose. Extend the string to the screen of the computer. The distance between your nose bridge and the screen is the proper focal distance your eye care provider needs for proper glasses prescriptions. Resting your eyes is most important. Have your eyes checked periodically for changes. Also, a home remedy that may be very comforting is to use chamomile tea bags on your eyes. Wet the tea bags and leave them "juicy." Sit in a chair with your eyes closed and place the wet bags on your eyes for 20 to 30 minutes. Your eyes will feel quiet refreshed!

Moderator: Well, we've reached the end of our hour. I'd like to thank you, Dr. Jones, for joining us today!

Dr. Jones: Good-bye for now.

The opinions expressed by Dr. Jones are hers and hers alone. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

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