April 6, 2024

It’s Time to Rethink How You Sit at Your Screen to Prevent Long-Term Pain

4-minute read


You may think, “I have never experienced pain from sitting at my computer, so I’ll scroll past this article“. Well, think again because if not now, then in the future, it is highly likely that you will experience musculoskeletal (MSK) pain, which can easily lead to long-term debilitating chronic pain. By the way, MSK refers to muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, joints and cartilage. This article will help you understand just how important it is to manage your MSK health.

Understanding the Scale of the Problem

Writer Annie Dillard famously said, ” How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives“. And for most of us, a substantial portion of our lives is spent at work.

Let me put things into perspective: if you work 40 hours a week from ages 18 to 60, you will have spent roughly 82,320 hours at the office by the time you retire (that includes a 3 week annual holiday). Even if we deduct 60% for lunches, meetings, sick days, etc, that is still a staggering 32,928 hours of your life spent tapping on a keyboard.

When you work at a PC or laptop, your musculoskeletal health is compromised because, biologically, you are not adapted to sitting for extended periods. As far back as 12,000 years, our ancestors were an agrarian species, which means they engaged in farming practices and were active throughout the day. Only by the late 19th and early 20th centuries did sedentary jobs begin to accelerate due to industrialisation. Thus, your musculoskeletal system is still adapting to the modern way we live and work.

Furthermore, 30 million working days in the UK are lost due to musculoskeletal conditions annually, accounting for up to 30% of GP consultations in England. Undoubtedly, this has enormous negative consequences for businesses and the economy.

My Journey Through Pain

Having personally suffered from pain, particularly in my lower back, neck, and shoulder, I write from a place of personal experience.

It significantly affected my identity, productivity, self-esteem, and physical mobility, which led to depression. Over time, the painkillers I relied on became ineffective due to overuse, and I spent a small fortune on physiotherapists and chiropractors. So, I cannot stress enough how important it is, to care for your musculoskeletal health.

Eventually I learned to manage the pain by sitting correctly and moving often. In addition, the groundbreaking app Curable, which helps you manage pain, was  life-changing in my case. Take my word for it, it works.

Factors Contributing to Musculoskeletal Issues in the Workplace

Office workers mostly experience back pain, but wrist, shoulder, and neck pain (etc) are common, too. Pain can be caused by:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor posture and sitting incorrectly at your screen
  • Incorrect equipment, e.g. chair, desk, mouse, etc
  • Inactivity, i.e. sitting for too long, otherwise known as sedentary behaviour
  • Prolonged repetitive movements, e.g. using a mouse not suited to you, can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome

You may think you are sitting correctly at your desk. However, subtle adjustments can significantly improve ergonomic comfort and reduce the risk of long-term musculoskeletal damage.

The following graphic images will help you to understand how your posture and musculoskeletal system must be respected and protected!

The Art of Sitting

The Correct Way to Sit at a Desk

The Correct Way to Sit at a Laptop

Tips for Effective Back Care

Conclusion and Practical Tips

In conclusion, here are some practical tips to help you prevent MSK pain:

  • Set up your workstation correctly – get the right chair, keyboard, mouse, etc.
  • If possible, get a sit-stand desk
  • Incorporate routine stretch sessions
  • Yoga, walk or do sports on your lunch break
  • Do yoga, pilates, and exercise after work
  • Walk whilst talking on the phone
  • Reduce mobile screen tim.
  • Avoid using devices flat on the desk
  • Consider using voice input
  • When holding a mobile, raise it to the height of your chest.
  • Sit less and move more! The science is conclusive; you need to move every 20 to 30 minutes regardless of whether you meet the physical activity guidelines

Thank you for reading my blog, and good luck on your journey to sitting for a pain-free life! 😊