Back pain and dry eyes from your office job? You’re not alone!
Are you experiencing back pain, dry eyes and discomfort from slouching over your desk the whole day? You may be experiencing something called ‘Office Syndrome’.
Office Syndrome is a relatively new condition coined to describe the group of symptoms experienced from sitting at our desks for prolonged periods of time. It is typically found in office workers who spend several hours seated in front of a computer screen. On average, we spend about 6 hours sitting at a desk everyday — that’s a lot of sitting. Your body was designed to move. Sedentary life has a negative effect on your body. Furthermore, with the current work from home situation, some of us might be spending even more time than we previously did at our desk.
In order to successfully avert Office Syndrome, you first have to understand exactly what it is.
Office Syndrome Explained
Let it be clear — Office Syndrome is not an illness but a set of symptoms that you may develop due to poor sitting habits. For example, you might be spending hours in the same position staring at your computer screen. Given the long hours and heavy workload, you might be suffering from Office Syndrome and not even aware of it! This type of lifestyle may seem harmless initially, but a desk-bound way of life can wreak havoc on your spine and muscles.
Causes of Office Syndrome
Most issues that cause Office Syndrome stem from workspaces that fail to conform to ergonomic standards. By this, I mean desks and chairs that are positioned incorrectly and as a result force an individual to sit in an unnatural position. This unnatural seating is what causes the hunching and slouching we see in office workers everywhere. Soon enough, the following symptoms may emerge:
- Weak core muscles
- Constant muscle contraction
- Tension in multiple muscle groups
While we have addressed posture, there is another factor that contributes to Office Syndrome. Unsurprisingly, it is the effects of looking at your computer screen for too long. You may experience these symptoms due to extended exposure:
- Eye strain
- Dry eyes
Long hours at work may also be mentally taxing. You may start to feel that you are living to work, rather than working to live. Any psychological symptoms that you may experience such as stress and fatigue may also fall within the ambit of Office Syndrome.
Possible Symptoms of Office Syndrome
- Back pain
- Shoulder pain
- Knee pain
- Neck pain
- Muscle ache
- Numbness in your limbs (arms, feet, and fingers)
- Dry eyes
Treatment Options for Office Syndrome
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and suspect that you may have Office Syndrome, it is advisable to see your doctor. He or she may have to do some further investigations to provide a diagnosis.
Depending on the symptoms you exhibit, your doctor may suggest one or more of the following:
- Ultrasound scan
- Blood tests
Your treatment plan will depend on the part of your body that is affected and the type of symptoms experienced. Your doctor may prescribe any of the following:
- Muscle Relaxants
- Laser Therapy
You may even want to explore alternative therapies like:
- Electrical therapy
- Trigger point release therapy
- Shockwave therapy
The treatment essentially depends on the symptoms and body part that is affected. However, it would be best not to even have the symptoms aforementioned at all. As such, prevention should be the goal when it comes to Office Syndrome.
Office Syndrome Prevention Measures
The good news is not everyone who works in an office is destined to develop Office Syndrome! All that is required are some adjustments to the workplace and the development of good habits, and Office Syndrome can be easily avoided.
1) Make Good Posture A Habit
You should sit with your shoulders pulled back. Your chin should be pointing downwards to stretch your spine. Always keep your feet flat on the floor and avoid crossing your ankles or legs. You should try to sit like this even when you are not at work — your body will thank you for it.
2) Change Sitting Position Frequently
If you sit in the same position for too long, you may start to experience some discomfort. Try changing your sitting position every 1-2 hours — this will prevent slouching and muscle fatigue altogether. You should also never sit on the edge of your seat and change the angle of your seat periodically.
3) Keep Moving
Try to develop an exercise routine. It is recommended that you exercise for 30 minutes or more per day, 3-4 times a week. While walking and jogging may be good for your cardiovascular health, you should focus on core strengthening exercises like planks and crunches.
4) Workspace Ergonomics
Always keep your keyboard and computer mouse directly in front of you. Your arms should be supported and never be held at an uncomfortable distance from your desk. In addition, I recommend not placing your screen too close to your eyes; about an arms-length away sounds about right. It is also easier on your eyes if your screen is at your line of vision or slightly below. With the innovation of workplace spaces, there are many ways we can make work more comfortable for us, such as through standing desks and adjustable desks.
5) Break Time
You should take regular breaks away from your desk to stretch your legs and rest your eyes.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Age Group Is More Prone To Suffer From Office Syndrome?
About 60% to 70% of office workers between the age of 16 and 35 years seem to complain the most about the symptoms associated with Office Syndrome. It is believed that this group spends the greatest number of hours behind a desk. With that said, the over 55 age group are also affected by this condition. It appears that this age group may already be starting to suffer from muscle and joint pain and the hours behind the desk exacerbate their pre-existing conditions.
Are There Any Tools You Can Use At Work To Help Prevent Office Syndrome?
There are a few tools that help ease the symptoms of Office Syndrome. They include:
Lumbar support pillow
This pillow gives much-needed support and relieves pressure in your lower back.
This tool is designed to raise your feet so that pressure on the lower back can be relieved. It also encourages movement; the gentle rocking boosts circulation.
This mat is designed to increase circulation and disperse pressure in your legs. It is excellent for both sitting and standing work desks.
Keyboard wrist rest
Mousepads are now designed to give your wrist more support as you type at your keyboard.
Is there Any Gender Correlation With Office Syndrome?
No, both men and women can suffer from Office Syndrome. It does not depend on your gender but on your sitting habits and the number of hours you spend at your desk.
If you think that you are suffering from Office Syndrome, help is available. However, the best course of action should be to follow the guidelines provided above and avoid these unpleasant symptoms altogether.
Wishing you good health always!
- Vernon, G., Ridley, D., & Lesetedi, D. (2008). 'Home Office syndrome'. The British journal of general practice : the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 58(552), 510. https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp08X319530
- Yao, W., Davidson, R. S., Durairaj, V. D., & Gelston, C. D. (2011). Dry eye syndrome: an update in office management. The American journal of medicine, 124(11), 1016–1018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjmed.2011.01.030
This article was written and medically reviewed by Dr Ben, M.D on 27/04/2021