Spoiler alert: no. Desks are not the enemy. Laptops, lousy chairs, and even the vague reference to ‘posture’ take the fall far too often.
But lack of variety and movement? That is a worthy enemy. Millions of people spend billions of hours every week crouched over a computer or weirdly postured in a desk chair causing headaches, neck pain, that stabbing burn under the shoulder blade, sore forearms, and tingly hands.
Yes, the positioning is bad. But we put our bodies in weird positions all the time, fishing a lego out from under the couch, shoveling mulch, balancing two bags of groceries while trying to unlock the front door. It’s when we stay in these positions for hours and days and entire careers that our bodies respond with a vengeance.
Think of it like this: you can hold your baby niece and give her a bottle and your arm and shoulder may be a little tired for the night. But hold and feed that baby in the same position for 6 meals a day for a year? You’re gonna get some lasting pain patterns that can’t be fixed with a hot shower and a yoga class.
But we can’t all just quit our jobs and throw our computers into the sea. So managing the physical demands of desk and computer work are about just that: management.
What helps manage the pain and soreness? I have some thoughts.
I’m not going to be subtle about this and place it at the end of the list. Regular massage can be really helpful for the aches and pains caused by computer and desk work. Skilled massage can help lengthen the tissues that are tight, ease the tissues that are pulled taut, and remind your body how it’s supposed to feel. And a good massage therapist (Hi! That’s me!) can help you determine the best between-massage stretches and activities to keep you feeling good.
Changing position frequently
There is no ‘ergonomic’ setup that can make staying in one position for 8+ hours a day comfortable or good for your body. The key is to change your position throughout the day.
Sit/stand desks are great. So are a cushion on the floor, a dining table, a kitchen counter, a bed with good bolsters behind the back and under the knees, and even a couch. Throw a pillow under your knees and kneel at your desk for a little while. Even just raising and lowering your chair throughout the day can be helpful.
I know, I KNOW, you’ve heard this before. Because it’s legit. Frequent short breaks to stretch out the muscles that have been bunched up can really improve how you feel overall. Maybe you can walk or just stand up and move around a bit during phone calls. Forearm stretches, ankle
circles, and shoulder rolls can all be accomplished while sitting at a desk (maybe just turn that zoom camera off first).
Stretching is great, but sometimes strengthening the right muscles is part of the solution to easing back and shoulder pain. A qualified personal trainer or physical therapist can help you develop a program to keep your posture strong and balanced.
Finding what works best for you can be a challenge, but I’m here to help! Your whole body will benefit from a plan to treat your desk-related pain.