For women who work in an office, heading to work pain-free may seem like an impossible task. In many cases, these professionals face an array of issues that can lead to feet, back, neck and wrist pain, despite it being a largely avoidable occurrence.
“Many sources of pain and injury in women are related to the shoes and bags they wear to work,” said Dr. Jason Fond, director of Orthopedic Surgery at Montefiore Nyack Hospital. “Women who wear high heels all day, every day are at increased risk of developing bunions, corns, calluses, hammertoes or pain in the ball of the foot.” To avoid injury, he recommends wearing shoes with a low heel -- ideally, no more than an inch and a half. Choosing a shoe with a little bit of a platform also allows women to get more height without going too high on the heel. For those who prefer to wear high heels, it's important not to do so every day.
Wearing a large shoulder bag filled with heavy items is also an easy way to strain the neck, shoulder and back. “Options such as cross-shoulder bags and backpacks take some of the weight off your shoulder and reduce the strain,” said Fond. “If you are going to use a shoulder bag, empty it out once a week and see what you don’t really need to carry around. Is there anything you can have two of, and leave one at the office and one at home, so you don’t need to carry it?”
For those who use a computer all day, it’s important to evaluate a workspace -- chair, keyboard, monitor -- and see if there are ways to make adjustments that will ease the strain on the body.
Chairs should be adjusted so one's feet rest flat on the floor and thighs are parallel to the floor. If the chair has armrests, adjust them to allow the shoulders to relax. Adding a lumbar support to the back of a chair can also ease back pain.
Next, place the monitor directly in front of you, about an arm’s length away. The top of the screen should be at or slightly below eye level. Position the keyboard directly in front of your body. Ideally, the keyboard height should allow you to sit with your shoulders relaxed, with your elbows in a slightly open position with wrists and hands straight. Put the mouse within easy reach, on the same surface as the keyboard.
“Take a short stretch break every half hour or so if you can,” said Fond. “Try to get away from your computer during lunch. The key to avoiding any type of strain is to vary your movements so you’re not exposing your muscles to micro-traumas over and over. No matter how well you have set up your work station, staying in the same position for long periods will take a toll on your body.”
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