Screen work is hazardous to our health

Sedentary work has become one of society’s major health hazards. However, by taking only a few measures, we can avoid sustaining injuries from our sedentary work, says the SOS International physiotherapist.

Sitting in an office chair in front of a screen does not seem particularly hazardous. However, sedentary work is, in fact, a major contributor to one of the greatest enemies of public health in our modern society, namely physical inactivity.

- We have a lot of clients doing sedentary work at a desk all day long, says Marcus Idoff, physiotherapist at SOS International Healthcare, delivering health services to insured patients.

Sedentary work increases physical inactivity and can cause pain and damage to muscles, joints and nerves. About four in ten of the clients seeking help from SOS International physiotherapists suffer from neck, upper back and lower back issues. About two in ten have issues with their shoulders, elbows and hands. Not all of these injuries are attributable to sedentary work, but it is estimated that physical inactivity and poor ergonomics are the cause of most enquiries.

The cause of absence due to sickness and reduced ability to work
Basically, our bodies are adaptable which offers both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that our physique improves when we use our body, whereas a disadvantage is that our physique becomes poorer when we do not use our body. If you are inactive and have a poor posture, your body will also adapt to this, which may lead to injuries and pain.

In the long term, these injuries can result in absence due to sickness and temporarily reduced ability to work.

- Neck and upper back pains are usually the result of a poor posture and prolonged sedentary work. The body adapts and the poor posture is retained for longer. But if you act on the causes of injuries, you can become free of pain and regain a healthy posture. The disadvantage of our body’s ability to adapt is that injuries may arise; the benefit, however, is that it is treatable, says Marcus Idoff.

Marcus Idorff also mentions back pains and slipped disc as potential consequences of sedentary work, whereas pains in shoulders, elbows and hands often result from sitting incorrectly and overstraining the small muscles of the arm and hand.

- These injuries have a good prognosis if they are treated. But getting rid of the pains can take a long time - usually between three and twelve months. Many people wait to seek help until it really hurts, and this affects the rehabilitation time, says Marcus Idoff.

Make sure to move – on the job and in your spare time
If you want to avoid injury from a job that involves working at a keyboard and a screen, it is first and foremost a matter of staying physically active - both during working hours and in your spare time:

- If you are physically active outside working hours, you reduce the risk of injury from sedentary work. Exercising two to three times a week will make a big difference. However, you can also do something to prevent injuries while at work. The most important thing is to take breaks from the screen and be active during the day, says Marcus Idoff.

Do you sit in front of a screen at work? These are the physiotherapist’s tips for preventing injuries:

• Be physically active in your spare time – preferably, take 30 minutes moderate to intensive exercise three times a week
• Take breaks from your screen during the workday
• Vary your position regularly – and make use of your stand-and-sit table
• Take the stairs instead of the lift
• Hold walk-and-talk meetings
• Take your bicycle if you are going to meetings outside your workplace
• Use the natural breaks during the workday to move: Go and get some water or coffee, walk over to your colleague instead of sending       an e-mail, take a walk while speaking on the telephone
• Limit your screen time in your spare time. Nothing makes you sit as quietly as your TV, your iPad and your smartphone.

This is how hazardous physical inactivity actually is

One thing is sitting still at work. Another is being physically inactive for most of the day. Physical inactivity applies to a daily life where you are active and moving about for less than 2.5 hours a week.

• Physical inactivity is one of the major health hazards in our modern society - in line with smoking. Globally, it is estimated that half a       million deaths every year could be prevented by reducing physical inactivity by 10 percent.
• The greatest risks related to physical inactivity are increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
• Physical inactivity also affects our mental well-being and our quality of life

Read more about SOS International’s healthcare services here

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