• Bupa. Your health is our focus
Rob Kemp
04 May 2011 16:38 | By Rob Kemp, contributor, MSN Him

Stop work crippling you



How to avoid common injuries at work (© Rex Features)

According to data from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP), muscular skeletal disorders (MSD) among desk jockeys are on the rise.

Compounded by the fact that so many off us will log off from work, only to resume surfing, texting, typing and poking when we get out of the office, it's easy to see why 46% of employees experience pain resulting from the way they work.

It's time to stop your job from crippling you, so take the following evasive actions.

Step away from the desk

The CSP study reveals that 31% of office employees regularly work through their lunch break.

Man in neck brace (© Rex Features)

"Men especially can fall into the trap of sitting for too long at a computer screen without taking a break, which can lead to back and neck ache," says Sammy Margo, chartered physiotherapist (www.sammymargo.com).

"Leave your desk for five to 10 minutes an hour to improve blood circulation, rest your eyes and stretch your back and limbs." Easier said than done when you're in the middle of crucial report (or more likely on Facebook). "But setting a watch alarm or desktop alarm software will remind you," suggests Margo.

On Bing: learn more about muscular skeletal disorders

Make a stand

"You may not need much of an excuse to leave your desk and stand at a bar or a coffee shop counter, but doing it to save your spine is as good a reason as any," says Margo.

"Have stand-up meetings around waist-high storage cabinets if you need to - it'll stop back problems and ensure the meeting don't drag on so long too," she adds. Also stand up when you take calls in the office or take them on your mobile to encourage you to walk around more.

On MSN Him: 10 jobs no man would ever want

Eat out

Leaving your desk to have lunch won't just ease your aching limbs - it'll stop you turning your keyboard into a breeding ground for bugs.

Filthy computer keyboard (© Rex Features)

Microbiologists who swabbed 30 keyboards at a London office discovered that one in five were so bacteria infested they posed a serious health hazard. "A major cause for a germ-ridden keyboard is eating lunch at your desk," says Dr Mark Enright, a microbiologist with Imperial College London.

On Bing: more health dangers of dirty keyboards

Get a fitter office

Your job can cripple you in ways that aren't as obvious as aching limbs.

Researchers from Queensland University of Technology have found that ultra-fine toxic particles in the office air increase fivefold during work hours due to printer use. "They can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause damage on the scale of inhaled cigarette smoke," warns researcher Professor Lidia Morawska.

Can you open the office windows to let air in and toxins out? Or move your desk away from the computer printer?

On Bing: sit with the correct posture at your desk

Let your mouse run free

"Keeping your computer mouse in the same position or having to stretch slightly to use it can trigger repetitive strain injury (RSI)," warns Sammy Margo.

Man using a computer and mouse (© Rex Features)

According to the CSP almost 450,000 UK workers have upper limb RSI. To alleviate this switch to a wireless mouse and alternate the hand you use each day.

"Position your mouse in the middle of your desk - almost at the centre of your chest - to stop straining your tendons," says Tim Hutchful from the British Chiropractic Association.

On Bing: more causes of repetitive strain injury

Cool off your laptop

Even when you're away from the desk you still run the risk of suffering computer-related health issues if you're using a laptop.

"To save back and shoulder problems use a stand or place the laptop on a flat surface," suggests Sammy Margo. "An ideal position would be to have it on a high counter since standing is the most ergonomic stance."

More worrying for men is the effect that a laptop's heat can have on you. In 2010, Swiss researchers reported skin problems suffered by laptop users as the underside of their portable PCs reached temperatures of 52C.

University of New York researchers have previously highlighted how using laptops for too long can significantly elevate the temperature of the scrotum and potentially put a man's sperm count at risk.

On Bing: the health dangers of laptops

Keep your texts short

Go easy on the texting, emailing and social networking from your Blackberry, Palm computer or iPhone if you want to avoid injury too. Physiotherapists are reporting a rise in patients suffering muscle fatigue related to excessive texting, emailing and tweeting.

Man using an iPhone (© Rex Features)

University of Gothenburg ergonomists are advising heavy texters to use both thumbs in order to avoid hand and arm muscle problems, as well as varying their posture.

Sammy Margo also suggests we work a little more wisely with these gadgets. "Use voice recognition software to dictate instead of typing documents and stick to responding with short answers to emails and texts when you're on the move," she says.

On Bing: more causes of muscle fatigue and weakness

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