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Desk work: health risks

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 461 views

In the home office as well as at the office workplace, many stressful factors affect people – they can be of a physical as well as psychological nature. Read here what health problems desk work causes and how you can avoid them.

What health problems does desk work cause?

Sitting for a long time at the office workplace or in the home office puts a strain on your health. Be aware: The human spine and the entire holding system made up of muscles, tendons and ligaments are not made for such a static load. In the long run, a one-sided sitting posture and lack of exercise are major causes for a whole range of complaints and illnesses.

In the following we have summarized the most common complaints caused by working long hours at a desk and give you suggestions on how to avoid them:

back pain

Back pain is very common. Almost everyone is confronted with pain in the lower back at some point in their life – back pain is a widespread disease. The causes are manifold. They can be your body’s response to constantly sitting in front of the screen or the result of an improperly adjusted chair. Poor posture is often the cause: many people find it difficult to sit in an upright, back-relieving position for long periods of time.

The cervical spine can also be affected: It is the most mobile part of the spine, but also one that is most prone to failure. Screen work puts a one-sided strain on her due to a tense posture over a long period of time. As a result, feelings of tension and pain can occur. In addition to this static stress, a draft can also overcool the neck area and trigger tension.


Screen work can lead to headaches – they are also widespread in the population. Leaning your head forward for long periods of time tenses your neck and neck muscles. The blood vessels constrict and the circulation is disturbed – the result: headaches.

Even hours of concentrated staring at the monitor can lead to tense neck muscles, especially if you have a bad posture, which can lead to tension headaches.

A twisted head position can also trigger headaches. Therefore, if possible, set up the screen in such a way that you avoid glare and reflections when working. Also, remember to take regular breaks. Remember: exercise and fresh air can prevent headaches.


Repetitive Strain Injury Syndrome (RSI) is a collective term for various complaints in the hands, arms and shoulders. Translated, the name means “repetitive strain injury”. The cause of the RSI is the heavy strain caused by stereotypical, repeated, fast movements – even if they require very little strength.

Rapidly double-clicking or scrolling the mouse is an example – the result is the famous “mouse arm”. In the long run, this unfavorable working posture leads to damage to the soft tissue of the forearm and hand.

Typical complaints of the RSI are:

  • Movement and rest pain in the hand and arm area,
  • Swelling and discomfort such as tingling and pain in the fingers and hands
  • Muscle tension and muscle spasms in the neck, shoulder, arm and hand area.

To prevent RSI, you should adapt your workplace from an ergonomic point of view: sit straight and comfortably. The neck, shoulders and arms should be as relaxed as possible. Also use an ergonomic mouse and keyboard combination.

Also, avoid draughts! Ideally, you should also practice new movement patterns at work so that the same areas of the hand and arm are not always stressed one-sidedly.

eye discomfort

Eye problems are also not uncommon. Although the eyesight is not impaired by the screen work, the eyes are heavily strained by the hours of concentrated work on the monitor. So make sure you have adequate lighting.

Eye problems are usually caused by blinking less frequently. The eye dries out and the conjunctiva becomes irritated – also known as Office Eye Syndrome.

However, visual problems themselves only occur occasionally. They are the result of overloading the eye muscles. Here it is advisable to apply the so-called “20-20-20 rule”. It states that you should focus on a distant object or object for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. This trains the muscles around the eyeball and preserves your vision.

If you have dry eyes, you should also drink as much as possible and make sure that you consciously blink more often. In consultation with your doctor or pharmacist, you can also use eye drops or artificial tears.

vein problems

Vein problems have many causes. Predisposition, lack of exercise and overweight play an important role.

Sitting in the office for hours puts additional strain on the veins. Normally, the blood is transported back from the legs by movement (muscle pump). However, due to lack of exercise, the blood accumulates there.

If the office chair is also set too high, or the front edge of the chair is too hard, the return transport of (venous) blood from the legs is impeded by the pressure on the back of the thighs.

Similar to back problems, there is also a common reason for vein problems: lack of exercise. However, you can easily counteract this with exercise. Alternatively, you can wear compression stockings, which counteract blood congestion in the legs.


A permanent overstrain and stress at work can affect the mind. However, there is not “one” trigger for a burnout. The reasons can be very different.

Experts describe burnout as a state of physical, emotional and, above all, mental exhaustion. It is important to take countermeasures in good time in order to avert long-term damage to health.

With the right strategies, this is quite possible: Good stress management and suitable relaxation techniques can support you in stressful times. Contact with friends and relatives also has a calming effect and provides support. In some cases it can help to keep a (stress) diary – this can “ground” you in difficult phases of life.

Desk work: prevent health risks

Movement in the workplace: What sounds so simple is not always easy to implement in the office or in the home office. Movement breaks are important for health. With a few tricks you can make your working day more active.

  • Height- adjustable desk: A height-adjustable desk can be adjusted to your height without interrupting your work. This gives you the option of changing positions and working while standing.
  • Dynamic workplace: Set up your office or home office so that you have to get up more often. For example, place the printer or wastebasket at the end of the room. So you are forced to get up more often.
  • Standing Work: Take every opportunity you get to get moving. Your musculoskeletal system wants to be challenged. Some tasks can be done very well while standing: Try making phone calls while standing. If you have a business cell phone, walk around the room when making the call. When thinking blocks or in creative phases, it often helps to walk around a little. Standing meetings are also possible.
  • Exercise during breaks and free time: Use lunchtime or your coffee breaks to take a few steps. A short walk is ideal. It is best to supplement this with regular, gentle strength and mobility training after work.
  • Drink enough: Ideally, you should drink 1.5 liters of water or unsweetened tea daily. In the summer there may well be more.
  • Healthy work-life balance: A healthy and active lifestyle helps reduce stress. It is also important to ensure the right balance between work and free time. In this way, burnout can be prevented in the long term.

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