Postural stiffness and pain is one of the most common reasons patients seek treatment from a physiotherapist. Many sedentary working tasks are conducive to prolonged positions that can be sustained for hours at a time and many manual jobs involve persistent, repetitive movements. Due to these factors and more, many people experience significant pain and disability during their occupational tasks. However, there are most definitely strategies that you can put in place to address work related pain.
Pain can take a considerable toll on the health and well-being of an individual. It can be exhausting and significantly affect a person’s mental health. It can also increase perceived work demands, and arguably work performance. A study of nurses from India investigated the relationship between musculoskeletal disorders and perceived work demands. It was found that nurses with lower back and knee pain experienced a feeling of higher working demand and difficulty compared to those who did not experience musculoskeletal disorders. While this may sound obvious, it clearly highlights that managing your occupational pain is a critical factor in your professional performance at work, but also for optimising your own mental health.
A common question asked by patients is, “what exercises can I do to help my pain?”. The answer is not always straightforward, as is depends on the specific demands of your work day.
Physiotherapists can offer an individually structured exercise program to address your work day postural pain after an assessment of the postures you typically undertake at work. These exercises are often made with respect to directional movement and will be realistically completed at your office or worksite without undue inconvenience.
A recent study of building painters investigated the risk of pain associated with hours spent painting. The authors of this study found painting a vertical wall for over 2.5 hours at a time put a worker at an increased risk of injury. This was lengthened to 3 hours if the painter used a painting-roller.
The authors hypothesised that this increased injury risk for prolonged painting was due to excessive stretching of the lumbar and cervical spine into an extended (or backward arching) position. When treating this type of worker a physiotherapist may suggest therapeutic exercise that reverses these prolonged postures so as to periodically unload stressed areas of the spine and preserve normal functional movement.
As you can imagine, the prolonged postures adopted by painters would be significantly different to those used by desk workers who sit for long periods. Hence, the prescribed exercises given by a physiotherapist would likely be dramatically different and focus on spinal extension type movements to reverse forward head and neck postures associated with desk work.
In conclusion, movement exercises can considerably improve your postural pain if appropriately prescribed. Your pain may be further improved with manual therapy techniques or other self management strategies like self-massage, heat packs or ergonomic workplace adjustments. Every occupation presents with different physical demands, and as such are best negated with specifically targeted interventions.
For more information, you can consult one of the many experienced physiotherapists at Clifton Hill Physio/Clifton Hill Pilates and Rehab.
Physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor