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What preventative measures can people take when sitting at a desk for prolonged periods of time?

Dr. Melanie Kinchen was recently asked to contribute to The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons on-going campaign called A Nation in Motion. This campaign features several articles called Ortho-pinions that highlight the opinions of orthopaedic surgeons on common injuries, conditions, and treatments.

The Dangers of Desks

The Effect of Sitting

The modern work environment isn’t exactly forgiving when it comes to encouraging a stress-free lifestyle. Many careers include being glued to a desk for several hours at a time while staring at a computer screen. This kind of sedentary behavior can cause both neck and back pain. Poor posture contributes to the problem as well. Back pain is the most common issue associated with sitting at a desk.

How to minimize pain/stress

  • Get up from your desk and stretch every so often. Try to walk around from time to time. According to researchers from the University of Utah School of Medicine, data revealed that there was a 33 percent decreased risk of dying when people got up to move around for about two minutes each hour.
  • A chair with lumbar support for your back is ideal.
  • Place your feet firmly on the ground and keep your knees at a 90 degree angle.
  • In order to lessen stress in your neck, I would recommend that you keep your computer screen higher up so you’re not constantly looking down.
  • Most often, back pain is caused by excessive strain of the back muscles and ligaments. Engage in a more active exercise program once the initial pain subsides that includes walking, swimming, bicycling and strength training with light weights.

What can be done today

Many patients report only mild neck and back pain, and when that happens I recommend using a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Try taking something over-the-counter, twice-a-day, for a week. If the pain is severe or lasts for many weeks, see a physician. Stronger medication that might be prescribed is muscle relaxants. If there is just isolated neck and back pain, it will resolve with medication. An MRI can be performed if pain still persists after medication.

Is surgery ever necessary?

Surgery can be an option for people who experience pain over a long period of time, but that can sometimes be caused by arthritis. People with arthritis who sit for long hours are also more likely to get aggravated by back pain. Unfortunately, surgery for back pain is not nearly as effective on arthritis patients. In extreme cases, spinal fusion will be offered, but surgery for back pain should be the last resort.

Many patients who experience severe neck and back pain think that it is incredibly significant. Most of the time, back pain isn’t caused by a slipped disk or tumor. Just because there is pain, it doesn’t mean that it calls for surgical intervention. There’s really no quick fix. Once habits and lifestyles are changed, the pain should subside.

If you suffer from chronic back pain or have been diagnosed with a slipped disk or tumor and wish to get a second opinion, call our Grapevine or Richardson office to schedule an appointment at 682-223-1346