Pain Prevention for Desk Workers: The Importance of Proactive Self-Care

A few days ago, my mom took me out for a massage date as a late birthday present. It has been a couple of months since my last appointment and I have been feeling very sore lately. I used to get a massage at least once a week for injury prevention and treatment for my left shoulder pain (a lingering problem from my car accident in 2018). During my session, I was advised that my neck was shrinking and that my rhomboids are too stiff. We have deduced that it could be because of stress and of sitting in front of the computer for extended periods of time. Or it could be something else. I have only been in the office environment for 10 years, after all. Isn’t it a bit too early for my body to start showing signs of strain? Other people have been doing it longer and they seem to be fine. Needless to say, I was very concerned.

Despite the alarming news, I still think it’s a blessing in disguise that it got caught early on, otherwise I would be in a world of pain when I get older (as if I need more pain at night with my insomnia, sore shoulder, migraine, and ankle pain). The good news is that it’s not irreversible. But it made me realize how important it is to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to self-care. So I did my research, and here are some tips that can help prevent muscle strains and alleviate stress. I know I’m not the only one experiencing this pain so I’m sharing it here.


Finding time to stretch or do some simple yoga poses at work will help release muscle tension and tightness

YOGA

Yoga has a lot of benefits: it helps you with your focus and concentration, keeps you in touch with your mind and body, flushes negative energy, and helps reduce stress and tension. Being busy at work, we may not have the luxury of time to attend a 60 or 90 minute practice session every day. But allocating even a few minutes in between our busy schedules would be better than doing nothing at all. To those with no previous yoga experience, here’s a good video to watch during a quick break:

DESK STRETCHES

If you feel too self-conscious to do yoga at work, or if you have less than 15 minutes, you can also try a few desk stretches. This can easily be done while reading emails, printing some documents, or even while making your way to the water cooler. A few reps at a time can help ease tension on your neck and shoulders. And while you’re standing, don’t forget to do some leg stretches as well. Tension also gets stored in the legs and we tend to forget stretching them out. Here are a few stretches that you can start doing in the office:

Incorporating these stretches daily goes a long way

MASSAGE

I am a big fan of massages. Even prior to my car accident, I always enjoyed a good deep tissue relaxation massage. Especially since I started working out, getting a massage at least once a month was my way of being kind to my muscles. After the accident, I needed the massages more often as my shoulder would just get so tense that it would keep me up at night and prevent me from getting a decent night’s sleep. Apart from easing muscle tension, massages also help with anxiety, headaches, etc. If you have massage benefits from work, it’s not a bad idea to incorporate this activity as a part of your self-care regimen. For those who have no work benefits, consider going to a massage therapy school and trying out their student clinics. The cost is cheaper compared to seeing an RMT, and you are helping students get more practice. They have supervisors who will ensure that you are receiving proper care, so this is a good alternative if you are on a budget.

Here are some schools that offer student clinics in Toronto: https://downtownwellness.ca/The-10-Best-Cheap-Massage-Clinics-in-Toronto.

You can read up more about the benefits of massage and stress management on this page: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/massage/art-20045743.


They say that defence is the best offence. I believe that it also applies to our bodies as well. If we take good care of it now, we will suffer less in the future (especially once we get older). With proper nutrition, enough exercise, and solid self-care habits, we are helping our future selves live comfortably. At the same time, there’s a correlation between our bodies to our mental health. Being physically healthy lends us energy to becoming mentally healthy as well. We can’t isolate one from the other. Self-love must be holistic. Hitting that perfect balance will help us enjoy our current selves.

Now excuse me while I stretch.

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