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The desk jockey’s injury guide… Posture problems solved!

How your posture at work leads to pain in real life

brunch Updated: Jan 12, 2017 13:58 IST
desk job,injuries,posture
Stretch and strengthen your upper back to compensate for all that hunching you do at the office(Getty Images)

A desk job in an air-conditioned environment may sound like a dream in hot weather, but long hours spent sitting hunched at work primes your body for all sorts of gym injuries. Worry not, for here’s a list of the most common problems and how to prevent them.

Destress feet and ankles

Cause: When your shoulders are rounded and you stand with drooped shoulders, the weight falls to the front of your foot. This misplaced centre of gravity, combined with running shoes which tip you forward, puts great stress on your feet and ankles.

Prevention: Improve your walking posture. Wear running shoes that aren’t too high in the heel, or try walking shoes, cross trainers or tennis shoes. By spreading the impact, you’ll prevent problems like plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, anterior compartment syndrome (a compression in the front of the ankle), lateral compression syndrome (a compression at the side of the ankle) and bunions.

Strengthen your knees

Cause: Deskies who don’t use their hip muscles during the day must go for kick-boxing or boot camp sessions. If the feet aren’t stable, due to improper footwear, and the hip muscles aren’t strong, the knees get all the stress. Leg extensions, curls and presses don’t help resolve the problem because they don’t strengthen the muscles of the feet and hips.

Prevention: Do lunges. With a lunge, your hip and ankle bend together. This stabilises and strengthens the knees. For greater benefit, do both forward and backward lunges followed by side lunges, which are also known as ‘step and squats’.

Brace your lower back

Cause: If your upper back is rounded, it will not extend properly when you do an overhead shoulder lift while standing. Instead, you straighten and arch upward your lower back, which could lead to anything from soreness to a more permanent injury because it’s getting all the stress.

Prevention: Stretch and strengthen your upper back to compensate for all that hunching you do at the office. Do straight-armed wall squats. Sit with your back against a wall. Flatten your lower back into the wall by tilting your pelvis under you. Straighten your arms in front of you and try to raise your arms up to your ears without letting a gap form between your lower back and the wall. Also whenever you can, exercise while standing. It helps you engage bigger muscles in your body.

Stabilise your shoulders

Cause: You generally do heavy overhead shoulder presses without doing anything to strengthen the rotator cuff – a group of internal muscles that provide the shoulder with stability. Without the stability needed for control, the rotator cuff could tear, suffer a strain or lose range of motion. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, but gym after work, you add to the stress on the rotator cuff. This is because your arms have to internally rotate when you type, which puts pressure on the shoulders. Then you go to the gym and do chest and shoulder press, and push-ups with your arms rotated inward. This can lead to supraspinatus tendonitis, an overuse injury of the rotator cuff.

Prevention: Externally rotate your arms to balance your shoulders by doing rowing with cables. Grab the cables in front of you and pull the arms back, rotating your palms away from and behind you.

Get rid of neck pains

Cause: If you sit with rounded shoulders, your neck follows your upper back, but your eyes are focused on the screen, so you arch your neck and you get pain. This poor posture follows you to the bench press, where the real trouble starts, when you’re lying on the bench but your back isn’t flush with the pad. Lack of mobility and extension in your upper back puts stress on your lower back and neck.

Prevention: When doing the bench press, make sure your lower back and neck are supported properly. Avoid putting additional stress on your neck with exercises that cause you to raise your arms over your head. Strengthen your mid and upper back with reverse shrugs. Sit at the lat pulldown. Grab the bar in front of you and do straight arm pulldowns. Pull down just the shoulder blades – not the arms – and go just slightly in front of you for three to four inches.

Avoid muscle tear and strain

Cause: While doing bicep curls, many people lift their egos rather than the weight, and end up cheating or swinging the weight up. This strains the biceps and tendons leading to tears, and even a complete bicep tear where the muscle detaches and balls up near the shoulder joint. A complete tear can only be fixed by surgery.

Prevention: Only lift weight that’s appropriate and don’t worry about showing off!

The author is a full-time orthopaedic consultant and a part-time supermodel. He spends his days fixing injuries at Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon, but his moonlighting career in the glamour world has seen him endorse top brands and designers. Bora has also appeared on the cover of Wallpaper magazine.

From HT Brunch, December 25, 2016

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First Published: Dec 24, 2016 20:17 IST