The story appears on

Page C3

January 19, 2010

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Health and Environment

Office work a pain in neck, back and wrist

SPENDING long hours in front of the computer, bad seated posture and improper use of the keyboard and mouse can cause all kinds of aches and pains in the neck, back and elsewhere. Zhang Qian explains. Many workers in desk jobs commonly suffer from a stiff neck, sore back and numb wrists. The main problem is bad posture - not sitting straight - remaining too long in one position and not stretching.

Doctors recommend a relatively natural position that keeps the spine straight, while occasionally relaxing and stretching. Don't bend the spine forward by sitting with hunched shoulders, and don't bend to the side.

"A stiff neck happens very often to young people nowadays as sitting at a computer desk is all that they do for eight hours a day," says Dr Tang Weizhong, chief physician of the Orthopedics and Traumatology Department of Yueyang Hospital attached to Shanghai University of TCM.

As the computer screen is usually located lower than the usual line of sight when people sit, most people will bend their necks down to better see the screen. The screen should be elevated instead.

When computer users bend their neck for a long time, the cervical vertebrae will stay bent. It puts more pressure on the intervertebral discs (the cushioning cartilage between discs), and the surrounding muscles also get tense to maintain the bent neck. Muscle strain results.

"When the neck is bent, blood cannot flow as it should and the tensed muscle is easily strained," says Dr Tang. "Patients may only suffer slight pain and numbness at first, but if the bad habit continues, strain can worsen and cervical discs can be herniated, causing a lot of pain."

Lower your chair and/or elevate the computer screen so it's at eye level. Frequently shifting position is important to prevent neck problems. Dr Tang recommends turning the neck in different directions every 30 to 45 minutes.

Keyboards should be below desk level, making typing more comfortable and keeping neck and shoulders in a more natural and healthy position.

A sore lower back is another problem, caused by not keeping the spine straight. Bad seated posture for long periods can cause lumbar vertebrae problems as well as numbness.

Bad posture

The sciatic nerve at the base of the spine is compressed by body weight when people sit improperly for too long and this can be painful. People can feel numb in the lower back due to insufficient blood circulation. Pressure on the nerves, lumbar vertebrae and pelvis can reduce blood circulation in the legs and feet and can cause numbness and swelling.

Bad posture, slouching and slumping can also cause problems for bone growth, metabolism and blood production. Men can suffer an inflamed prostate and kidney problems.

To avoid bending the spinal column, it is advised to sit on no more than the forward one-third of the chair. Generally, the more area you cover, the more pressure is placed on the nerves and the more the blood circulation is reduced.

It's important to get up from time to time, stretching the legs and twisting the waist.

Do not stand up suddenly after sitting for more than an hour.

A sore "mouse hand" and carpal tunnel injuries can result from long improper typing and intensive use of the computer mouse. Many people feel numbness, soreness and swelling in the wrists, sometimes accompanied by sharp pain. It also can affect fingers, palms, shoulders and neck.

Most people move the mouse on a desktop and repeated pressure and rubbing can damage nerves and blood vessels in the wrists, causing numbness and pain. Sometimes users also lean over when using the mouse, so their shoulder muscles are affected. Again, keeping shoulders straight and not hunching over is important.

Relaxing and exercising wrists every hour is essential in preventing "mouse hand." It's recommended to make a fist, stretch the fingers and massage fingers one by one.

Usually, the higher the mouse is placed, the more discomfort and potential damage to the wrists. The further the mouse is placed from the body, the more damage is done to the shoulder. The mouse should be relatively close to the body and not too high. Moving the chair and adjusting its level can help.

It's best if the mouse and keyboard are located around elbow height when the upper arm is naturally vertical. It's best if mouse is not too far forward.

Consider raising the chair.

If the soreness and stiff muscles cannot be relieved with exercise in a month, Tang suggests seeing a doctor. Treatments include acupuncture and tui na, TCM massage. Zhi ma Among the sure signs of winter are the big bags and jars of mixed ground sesame and ground walnuts that seem to be sold everywhere these days, often ground and mixed on the spot in pharmacies and food stores.

The mixture is a traditional part of the Chinese diet in winter.

Both nuts are extremely nutritious, but here we take a look at sesame.

The tiny seeds, golden or black (black is considered more potent) are loaded with vitamins, proteins and nutrients, including fat, protein, glucides (for the central nervous system), vitamins A and E, lecithin, calcium, iron and magnesium. Linoleic acid (unsaturated Omega-6 fatty acid) helps lower cholesterol. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that keeps the skin smooth and nourished and prevents inflammation.

Sesame is considered a "neutral" energy-reinforcing food in traditional Chinese medicine (walnuts are "warm"). Regularly eating sesame is good for the liver, kidneys (reproductive system) and spleen.

According to TCM, sesame reinforces blood, improves eyesight, acts as a laxative, promotes milk production in lactating women, promotes hair growth and is generally an anti-aging food.

It is recommended for weak persons suffering dizziness, ringing in the ears, high blood pressure, high blood fat, coughing, graying and dry hair, dry stool, mothers with insufficient milk.

But sesame is not for those with diarrhea and chronic inflammation of the intestine.

Sesame can be used both as oil for cooking and salad dressing and as and food. Both white and black sesame seeds are tasty, but black is considered more reinforcing.

Sesame congee

Ingredients: Black sesame and rice (4:1), walnuts, peanuts and other nuts can be added


1. Wash and soak sesame and rice for 30 minutes in water.

2. Make congee, first heating to a boil, then simmering for 20-30 minutes.

Benefits: Nourishes organs, strengthens tendons and bones. Reinforces energy and benefits digestion.

Sesame powder

Sesame powder is more easily digested than whole seeds. It's available in supermarkets and food stores. Eat one spoonful (20g) in the morning and one at night.

Benefits: Nourishes blood and reinforces liver and kidneys. Thus, it can help blacken hair and improve eyesight.

Sesame powder and honey

Mix, spread on bread or eat as desired.

Benefits: Helps reinforce liver and kidneys.

Sesame and walnut powder

Mix sesame and walnut (3:1). Eat around 16g before sleep.

Benefits: Improves sleep and memory and fights fatigue.

Walnuts, sesame powder, milk

Add a spoon of mashed walnuts and spoon of sesame powder in a cup of boiled milk. Add honey when it cools (heat deactivates honey). Drink daily at breakfast.

Benefits: Improves eyesight and worsening of myopia.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend