Where do you get the most discomfort when you’re working at your computer?
Obviously, it’s going to be different from one person to the next and depend on a number of factors like how your workstation is set up, past injuries, etc. But there are trends that I see when I’m doing assessments and the study above is one I always reference because of the huge sample size and the length of time it took. The researchers asked over 600 people to complete a daily diary of their discomfort over three years and they also performed physical assessments on each person. Aside from being depressed from writing down pain levels every day (I’m joking), there was a trend noted in certain muscles and body parts that were attributed to computer use:
The body parts and areas were ranked in order:
* Trapezius strain (neck/shoulder) – 33%
* Dequervains (thumb tendonitis) – 15%
* Forearm tendonitis – 9%
* Tennis Elbow – 4%
* Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – <1%
One of the findings most people are surprised to hear is that carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) was so uncommon. There’s still a stigma out there that CTS is a huge risk factor for computer use. However, this study (and other ones) show otherwise.
You can see most people report pain in the trapezius area, which is a large muscle attached to the shoulder and neck. Neck and shoulder discomfort is a huge source of pain for computer users.
So what can be done about it?
Get an ergonomic assessment done! What a coincidence, I do those! But really, at the very least, you should review the article about your workstation setup and make sure there’s no major risk factors that are making your problem worse.
What else? You can get an physical assessment done by a health care practitioner. Most people wait until the pain is interfering with function or really bad before getting help. Don’t wait for the pain to interfere with function before seeing someone. In most cases, there are other signs and symptoms that occur before pain to tell you that you should have it checked.
Figure out some exercises and stretches on your own. Yes, just google ‘neck and shoulder exercises’ and everything will be fine! I’m joking here because it’s so difficult to know which exercises will work for you. You want to be sure you’re getting the right exercises.
So what exercises work best for people who are having neck and shoulder pain from computer use? The next article will look at research-based exercise protocols that have been shown to have a major impact on reducing neck and shoulder pain.
Ryan Dueck, BSc (Kin), BMR (OT), M.Sc.