Desk-Fit 360 Part 5 – Don’t blame me, I’m just a chair!
The previous 4 parts of this series have outlined measures that you may take to decrease the stress on the body that can result from prolonged computer use. However, for those of whom are suffering musculoskeletal pain, it is also important to understand that ergonomics is only a small part of the pain picture and is unlikely to be the sole contributor to your condition. The most recent trends in pain management focus on approaching pain using a bio-psycho-social model. This means that we must consider all factors relating to a person’s issue, including their perception of what is wrong, their past injury history, personality traits, family and social support network, stress and other mood factors, sleep and nutrition as well as the actual anatomical site of pain and other musculoskeletal influences.
When we feel any type of pain, it is essentially a warning signal from the brain letting us know that the body is under some degree of threat. The perception of this threat may be influenced by all the factors mentioned above and many more. Therefore, the amount of pain you experience is not necessarily correlated with the amount of actual tissue damage but more so with the amount of threat the brain perceives the body to be under. In some cases of chronic pain, there may be little or no actual tissue damage but the nervous system has become so sensitized that the brain still perceives the threat and continues to produce pain as a protective response. If you have a spare 15 minutes I would recommend watching this entertaining TED talk by the brilliant Australian (of course) pain guru Lorimer Moseley:
This is extremely pertinent to ergonomics as the dangers of sitting and prolonged computer use have been so well publicised that many people will start to feel pain and automatically assume that it is because of the way they sit or the amount of time they spend at the computer. This can then cause a sense of blame towards the work environment, computer and/or desk and chair and even the company itself. There is research to show that people who have a sense of blame towards another party for their pain or injury have a poor prognosis for recovery (this is particularly evident in motor vehicle accident victims). When you come to work each day believing that you are about to spend 12 hours in contact with the “cause” of your sore back, you are already a step behind in losing the battle against pain. In my opinion, this is the main reason why sitting on swiss balls seems to be effective in reducing pain. If you are replacing the cause of your back pain with a giant, colourful, inflatable toy, then the perceived threat of sitting is greatly reduced.
The social element enters in when your colleague John returns from seeing a doctor/physio/chiro/osteo/witch doctor/taro card reader who tells them that they have back pain from sitting too much. You then start to think, “John has pain from sitting and I sit just as much as John. Surely I am likely to develop back pain too!”. Again, the threat of sitting is suddenly raised exponentially creating a window for a previously innocuous back strain to start causing pain.
Instead of blaming your work environment for the issues your are going through, apply the recommendations in parts 1-4 to optimise the way you are functioning in the office and then focus on the positives of your job. At Club 360 we are constantly striving to help people overcome their injuries and reach their fitness goals. This is an extremely rewarding environment to work in. What do you find rewarding about your job and how are you helping other people? Does it give you the opportunity to network and meet interesting people? If you struggle to find anything positive about the work you do (it may be worth considering a career change), then try to focus on the financial benefits. Your job likely provides for your family and gives you financial freedom to travel and do other things.
The way your sit can certainly do you harm but focusing too much on it may cause even more harm. Apply the information in these 5 articles as part of a healthy lifestyle and if you are concerned about a certain issue please seek the opinion of an experienced orthopedic medical professional.