“Say goodbye to the popular symptom… Office syndrome”

by Arparat Suriyawongpongsa, M.D.

Physical Therapy Department at Nonthavej Hospital

The new normal of working during the pandemic forces office people to work from their home instead of the office. I have observed that more patients are coming in with neck pain and shoulder pain symptoms. Most of them have a history with a non-ergonomic desk and chair, for example, using a dining table or a dressing table as a working desk which causes them pain from the office syndrome. This will start from a little pain and become worse until they cannot sit and work for a long time. Some of them might have a symptom of headache and insomnia which requires hospitalization.


How to deal with the office syndrome?

Before dealing with the syndrome, we need to understand what is it? Where does it come from? And why does it stay?

Office Syndrome is the symptoms of pain from the contracting muscles and membranes. It is often found at shoulders, necks, and backs which is caused by working in the same posture for a long time until the muscle fibers contract and become a “Trigger point” which is the sensitive-to-press area. When such an area is pressed, the pain will be felt differently depending on the location. Especially for the people who need to work with a computer for more than 6 hours. The trigger points are often found in the muscle needs for lifting the shoulder as shown in Fig.1 as the trigger point of this muscle is pressed. Furthermore, the trigger point generated at the neck can cause tinnitus, confusion, and blindness

Once the first trigger point has emerged, it will induce other trigger points to be generated around it. This causes a further expanded pain from the initiating point. For example, the shoulder pain that causes headache or the shoulder pain which goes down to the arms. The long-time contracted muscle suppresses the blood vessel resulting in restricting blood to that area. Therefore, the oxygen level is insufficient for the cells and impacts the cellular respiratory which forces the muscle to produce less energy. Then, the muscle does not have enough energy for it to relax. The longer we sit in the wrong posture, the more fatigued the muscle becomes, and the more painful membrane generates where the main factor causing the pain of the office syndrome is. The pain is indicated in various levels from annoying pain to severe pain which affects daily life. Hence, it is important to prevent such a syndrome.

Prevention of the pain from the office syndrome:

1.1. Manage to sit properly as shown in Fig 2.2. It is the posture that increases the working efficiency as well as reduces the fatigue of the muscle from the incorrect sitting posture (Fig. 2.1).

From Figure 2.2, the heart of the shoulder pain reduction is to adjust the chair level to allow the elbow faces 90 degrees against the table. This will reduce the work of shoulder muscle, upper trapezius, as the arms rest on the desk without lifting the shoulders. The important thing to reduce the neck pain is to adjust the level of the monitor to be at the eye level. This prevents the user from looking up and down to the monitor as well as preventing the degeneration of the collar bones.

2 . Changing posture every 30 minutes to allow muscles to relax.

3. 1. Stretching the neck and shoulder as shown in Fig. 3.1-3.3 to help relax the muscles and increase blood flow to contracting muscles which expedites muscle recovery.

4. Taking care of diets to prevent malnutrition, especially Iron, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 which are vital for preventing and help to recover the office syndrome.

5. For those who have chronic pain or stress or worry for a long time, the mechanism of suspending pain function in the brain will significantly be less efficient which causes more pain. 5 minutes of meditation before bed could help to relax, staying at the present, neither the future nor the past. This helps calm and relax your brain, and also reduce the stress hormone and ease the pain.

Cures of the office syndrome

If the above methods could not help relieve the pain, consultation with the physicians is an option as it will allow you to go back to work earlier and improve your health and quality of life. There are several approaches as below,

  • Taking a muscle-relaxing pain medicine or pain reliever
  • Physical therapy such as eases the pain by ultrasound wave, increasing the muscle activities by laser, and shock wave therapy in order to relax the membranes and stimulating the body to generate new blood vessels
  • Acupuncture by Dry Needling
  • Massaging to relax muscle

The effective cure of the office syndrome requires the understanding of the causes, learning to reduce the contributing factors, and adjusting the working posture to prevent the syndrome as well as knowing how to save yourself from the severe symptoms. Exercising could also help along with maintaining a good diet and avoiding stress. This syndrome can be easily cured by a clear understanding.

For those who experience office syndrome but have no time to see the physician, SCB has cooperated with our partner to introduce the online consultation which allows you to consult with the physicians regardless of where you are. It can be downloaded via SCB Easy application from the menu “Measures for COVID-19” and then “Online consultation”.

More detail can be found at: https://www.scb.co.th/th/personal-banking/other-services/tele-consultation-service.html