Did you know that Singapore is ranked 2nd as the world’s most stressed country? Most of us spend a good 7 to 9 hours daily sitting in front of our laptops, and while seemingly harmless, an immobile lifestyle could lead to serious consequences, especially for your muscles and your spine.
What is Office Worker Syndrome (OWS)?
While not a disease, Office Worker Syndrome (OWS) refers to the pain and soreness in the spine or muscles caused by sitting/ remaining in the same position for long periods. It is especially susceptible for the typical office worker due to the nature of their job. The average office worker sits for about 10 hours a day!
The body conforms to the shortened position of our hamstrings and adductors while sitting over a prolonged period of time that visibly rotates the hips posteriorly, starting a chain reaction from the lower back up to the shoulder blades. Therefore, while discomfort may occur near the shoulders, the root cause is a change in the legs.
While many of OWS symptoms may not seem dire, OWS is a vicious cycle.
If left untreated the following symptoms may become agonizing.
Common symptoms of OWS includes, but is not limited to:
• Dry eyes
• Muscle ache and stiffness
• Numbness and weakness in muscles
The initial pain and soreness may result in chronic pain, intervertebral disc disease, and other abnormalities in the spine, affecting your posture and ability to function normally.
Some patients also reported the inability to lift/ turn their heads.
For some, the above OWS symptoms might lead to psychological issues such as depression, insomnia, and extreme fatigue amongst others.
What Causes OWS?
Besides sitting for prolonged periods, a major cause of OWS is a poor working environment. Often times, the pressure to be seen as working results in a culture where office workers are pressured into sitting for long periods.
Common causes include:
• Disproportionate weight on one side – Carrying your bag on one shoulder, curling up on your side to sleep, Sitting with crossed legs, etc.
• Inadequate table height and positioning of the computer/ keyboard
• Long hours facing computer screens
• Slouching or hunching over with rounded shoulders
• Wearing heels that are more than 1.5 inches high
How to prevent OWS?
Given that you may not be able to avoid working on your desk, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
As such, it is insufficient to only get a message when you’re in discomfort.
Instead, it is advisable to adjust both, yourself and your environment to increase your movement, improve your circulation, and invest in your health.
The following are a few tips you could follow:
• Adjust your sitting posture every 20 minutes
• Implement physical activity into your everyday life – Taking the stairs, stretching your arms, hands and legs, etc
• Rest your eyes every 10 minutes
• Seek expert help when necessary
• Be mindful of posture always
• Adjust the monitor’s height to eye level to minimise strain
• Choose a lumbar supporting chair/ add-on
• Set your computer screen an arms-length away
• Ergonomic tools such as chairs can prevent poor posture
How can Lexly help?
With our verified practitioners such as Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, Sports Massage Therapists, TCM and more, Lexly seeks to help you better understand your treatment options. Browse our website to find out more about what treatments our practitioners offer.
If you have any of the above OWS symptoms, you may chat with us at Calibrate for personalised recommendations.
Special thanks to our partner, Clinical Pilates Family Physiotherapy for co-creating this article with us.