Lifestyle diseases affecting bones

A employee has wrist pain at the office.

Recently, Kim Kardashian was diagnosed with “selfie wrist”- a nasty case of carpal tunnel syndrome brought on from holding her wrist at an unusual angle to take her own picture.

While the way she developed carpal tunnel may be unusual, the fact that she did certainly is not. Bone and Joint Week was marked from Friday October 12 to Saturday October 20 and Dr Jack van Zyl, Sanlam Group Risk Medical Adviser, says 22% of disability claims were for diseases affecting bones, back, joints and connective tissue, often brought on by the nature of people’s work.

Carpal tunnel is but one of many types of repetitive strain injuries, which are the result of significant recurring stress on a certain area of the body.

Dr Van Zyl says many common bone and joint injuries correlate with a 9-to-5 desk job. “Sitting at a desk all day, almost every day of the week is far from ideal for the human body.

Staying in the same position for long periods of time has been correlated with weight gain, lower back pain, and cardiovascular and circulatory diseases.

“Additionally, it’s often shown as a contributing factor to musculoskeletal disorders affecting nerves and tendons, along with neck and shoulder pain. Inevitably, when you’re in pain, you’re unlikely to be at your most productive, resulting in both employees and employers suffering when these injuries do occur.”

A musculoskeletal disorder is an injury that affects the musculoskeletal system, namely nerves, tendons, muscles, ligaments and bones. It could occur in one specific area or multiple parts of the body. And you might experience severe symptoms suddenly, or it could be a chronic, ongoing pain.

If you’re at your desk all day, here are some of the common kinds of pain you may incur.

Lower back pain

Cleveland Clinic reports that Western society’s most common work-related problem is lower back pain brought on by overuse. Conversely, this kind of pain can be brought on by slouching and sitting in the same position for long periods of time.

There are many different causes for and symptoms of back issues, so it’s best to see a medical practitioner if the pain persists. Additionally: stop slouching, get up and go for regular walks, and invest in a better office chair.

Muscle aches

Again, there are many causes for muscle pain, normally a dull or deep ache. Inactivity can often contribute to muscle tension. It takes just two weeks of extreme disuse for close to a third of muscle strength to be lost in young people. Continuous disuse has been linked to a myriad of complications, including chronic pain. Essentially, if you’re quite sedentary at work, it’s wise to exercise to counteract the effects of being desk-bound all day.

Joint pain

The same goes for the joints. Arthritic pain usually comes from joint inflammation which can be exacerbated by – you guessed it – prolonged periods of inactivity. It’s best to turn to professionals to uncover the underlying cause, but numerous studies have shown physical exercise may be part of the cure.

‘Tunnel’ disorders

If your hand feels weak, numb or tingly and you’re using your computer a lot, you may have carpal tunnel disorder which is caused by pressure on the median nerve that runs along the arm, through the carpal tunnel to the hand.

This is the kind of issue that arises from overuse, and rest is usually the best treatment. There are other nerve compression “tunnel” disorders, like tarsal tunnel, which affects the foot.

Dr Van Zyl concludes: “The reality of the workplace is that most of us are sitting for prolonged periods. It’s vital we offset the effects of this through regular short walks during work hours, doing exercises at your desk and investing in an ergonomically-sound office chair.

If you are experiencing persistent pain, visit your GP as soon as possible.”