Do You Have Zoomitis?

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At first I thought I had made this term up, but after a quick Google search it appears the internet has beaten me to it. The word Zoomitits came across my mind after witnessing an incredible increase in the number of work injuries our clinic has seen during this pandemic. These numbers are unpresented, so much so that it deserves special recognition in our monthly newsletter. 

 

To illustrate why these injuries have increased let’s look at a case study. Edward is your typical office worker, who usually commutes to his full time job in downtown Toronto. At his downtown office, Edward has  a standup desk, adjustable monitor, and a comfortable ergonomic setup such as this one:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward is quite active, visits the gym regularly each morning before work. He also eats a nutritious diet and has cut down his sugar intake. Then the pandemic happened.

 

Now Edward has been working from home. Rather than waking up at 6am, he gets up around 9am, and has been skipping his workout routine due to the gym closures. His new stand-up desk is a sitdown sofa, and rather than using a proper ergonomic keyboard he uses his laptop computer. He still eats healthy, but is consuming more calories as he can now see the fridge from his new office. And to top it all off, he is constantly attending Zoom meetings with fellow colleagues, which can occupy over three hours of his workday.

 

As you can probably see, this new setup is less than ideal. Firstly, all the ergonomic factors he had so diligently arranged at his office and no longer available. His posture is now stooped forward, consisting of a rounded back and a forward head posture as shown in the picture below:

Anterior Head CarriageIf you have been to our clinic, chances are you have seen this image before. With good upright posture (such as when standing at a desk) the head weighs around 12lbs. While working on a laptop on a couch the head now weighs nearly three times as much! All this extra weight gets transferred over to the upper back and neck. This can lead to neck pain, upper back pain, shoulder pain and headaches: the classic signs of Zoomitis.

 

So what can Edward do to help prevent the pain? Here are a few quick and easy steps.

 

The long-term solution may be to invest in a standing desk. One of the most reasonably-priced, motorized standing desks we have found on the market is offered by PrimeCables. It is the standing-desk I use in my office. This desk can be found here. 

If your more of a do-it-yourselfer, Pinterest has some great ideas on how to make your own standing desk. Here is link that might offer some inspiration.

The correct monitor height is very important; if the monitor is too low it can cause neck pain. If the monitor is too high it can also cause neck pain. The key is to keep the monitor at eye level. Some monitors have built-in height adjustment features, if yours does not, a simple monitor riser can do the trick. Here are some monitor-riser ideas to help you set your monitor to the correct height. 

If you spend all day on your laptop/computer consider purchasing a proper ergonomic keyboard and mouse. Vertical mice can help alleviate the stress on the elbow, allowing a more natural hand position. An example of a vertical mouse can be found here. 

Well-spaced keyboards can be much more comfortable than laptop keyboards, and can help prevent the risk of repetitive strain injury. It can take time to become accustomed to these keyboards, however in the long term they can help prevent repetitive strain injury. An example of such a keyboard can be found here. 

Laptop keyboards and trackpads are not ideal for a few reasons. Firstly the edge of the laptop can dig into the base of the wrist, causing inflammation, swelling, pain and carpal tunnel syndrome. Secondly the wrist must bend laterally at a significant ankle, which can cause pain on the outside parts of the wrists. If you plan on using your laptop for more than an hour, consider switching to an external keyboard and mouse. 

The last accommodation you can benefit from is an anti-fatigue standing mat. These mats are great, as they can help cushion the feet, help you stand longer and can reduce the stress on the knees, ankles and low back. Supplement the mat with a foot rest. This can help improve circulation, reduce fatigue and allow your body to be more comfortable while standing. Here is an example of a standing mat. 

The goal with these improvements is not to stand eight hours per day, but to instead incorporate better ergonomics and help increase movement during the workday. Most people currently sit for 55 minutes and stand for 5 minutes during their work hour. We recommend our patients to try and reverse these durations to standing 55 minutes and sitting for 5 minutes per work hour. This may not happen right away, but overtime your body should get accustomed to standing and you will probably find yourself in less pain!

Unfortunately we can’t help you with those endless Zoom meetings, but hopefully with these tips your work day will be more productive and less painful!

If you are suffering from pain and would like help, call our clinic today for a free consultation, Ph: 905-593-1605. 

Wishing You The Best Of Health!

Dr Malik

 

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