A typical day at the office could lead injuries at the gym. If you sit at a computer most of the day, you could be at risk. Reports indicate that people who work in an office sit for about 10 – 12 hours per day, including 8.5 hours staring at a screen of some kind. Unfortunately, most people develop a pattern of poor posture during the workday causing weakness and tissue imbalances. Later in the day, these musculoskeletal system problems can be exacerbated by a workout if the incorrect form or exercise is performed during an exercise routine.
Improper form during exercise can lead to injury in almost any part of the body. If you are unsure about how to do an activity, seek the advice and treatment of a Physical Therapist or Personal Trainer. These healthcare professionals can develop a program and implement it in a way that will minimize the possibility of causing an injury. They can make sure that the all body parts are protected and addressed during the routine. The exercise routine should encompass the entire body and include strengthening, flexibility and cardiovascular exercises. Some of the most common injuries effect the major joints of the body, including the foot/ankle, knee, low back, shoulder and neck.
Foot/Ankle: When someone sits all day long they tend to have “rounded” shoulders and a forward head position. This is the most common posture that is assumed when someone sits at a computer for long periods of time. The problem begins when someone stands up after being in this posture for a long time. Their center of gravity automatically shifts forward and places more body weight on the front of the foot. When they go to the gym and begin to run or play a sport that requires them to stop or twist and turn it places a great deal of stress and strain on the ankle/foot complex. The ligaments and tendons are stressed to their maximum. Couple this scenario with weak core and hip musculature and the end result can be tendinitis, ankle and foot muscle strain or instability that lead to ligament sprains. Solution: Be sure to correct have proper posture throughout the day and when you exercise, make sure that you strengthen all parts of the body. The core and hip muscles have a major impact on the foot and ankle. Wear a shoe that is appropriate for your activity and make sure that you have enough support in the shoe.
Knee: Poor posture and a sedentary job can lead to weakness throughout the body. The knee joint requires a great deal of dynamic stability (produced by muscle) to function properly. If a person sits at a desk all day and then performs a high intensity exercise routine they can put a great deal of stress on their knees. If the core musculature is not strong enough to stabilize the pelvis the hip muscles are not able to control the leg bone (femur) during activities that require impact. Consequently, the patella can track abnormally or the excess rotation of the femur can lead to distal IT band tendinitis. The cartilage inside the knee can be compressed or have too much sheer force applied to them during activity and it can lead to a tear in the meniscus. Solution: Don’t sit all day at your computer. Perform an exercise routine that enhances the muscle strength of the core and hips. Lastly, wear shoes that are appropriate for your activity and provide good support to your feet and ankles. Poorly fitting shoes can lead to instability which can cause more stress and strain on the knee joint.
Lumbar Spine (Low Back): Poor posture and a sedentary job leads to poor muscle strength and endurance in the lumbar spine. Many people gain weight after a period of time and this adds stress and strain to the lumbar spine. The lumbar spine needs a great deal of dynamic support to function properly and it has been reported that it can “crumble” with as little as 18lbs of weight placed on the top of the spine when the muscle support is not present. When someone does not perform a series of core-related exercises on a consistent basis, their lumbar spine is compromised and susceptible to injury. Solution: Sit with correct posture and don’t sit for long periods of time. Exercise the entire body and include core exercises on a regular, consistent basis. Be sure to maintain the flexibility in the low back and hips.
Shoulders: Poor posture (“rounded” shoulder) during the workday places the shoulder joint in a position that can lead to shoulder injuries. The movement of the hand above shoulder level can “pinch” the tendons and other structures that lie in the Sub-Acromial (SA) space (space under the Acromion) when this posture is present. The shoulder joint has a tremendous amount of motion and the top or “head” of the arm bone (humerus) is held into the joint by the 4 rotator cuff muscles. When someone slouches and has “rounded” shoulders they develop weakness in the entire back musculature. The ability of the rotator cuff to perform properly requires stability of the shoulder blade (scapula) and the back muscles provide that stability when they are healthy. When they are not conditioned well, the humeral head can move abnormally and cause an injury to occur. Solution: Sit with good posture. Exercise all of the core and shoulder muscles to help with the dynamic stability of the scapula. Try not to perform too many exercises that require movement above shoulder level. When performing exercises that involve “pushing” a resistance, don’t have a wide grip because this type of hand position can cause a “pinching” of the structures in the SA space.
Neck: Poor posture and “rounded” shoulder posture leads to a “forward” head position. This posture and looking down at a screen can place a significant amount of strain on the neck muscles and ligaments. Solution: Sit with good posture and adjust your work station so your head is upright and the monitor is at eye level. Never look down at your monitor or cell phone/tablet for a long period of time. Strengthen the muscles of the core and shoulders because these muscles help to support and move the neck.
Working on a computer is a way of life for many people and social media has made looking at a screen of some kind as common as taking a breath. Unfortunately, the use of these devices can lead to poor posture and a weakened the musculoskeletal system. Exercise routines and gym workouts might cause injuries due to this condition of the musculoskeletal system. Avoiding an injury during a workout might start by having better posture throughout the work day!