5 Frustrating (but Fixable) Pains of the Deskbound
1. The pain that strikes at the front door.
What you feel: A sharp pain at the base of your thumb and the inside of your hand when you turn your wrist, grasp a handle or make a fist.
What it might be: An especially painful variation of tendonitis, which is called De Quervain's tenosynovitis. It can be caused by repetitive grasping or pinching movements, explains David Rempel, MD, MPH, a professor in the Division of Occupational & Environmental Medicine at the University of California, Berkeley. Although you'll probably develop this at home (it's so common among people who lift children that it's often referred to as "mommy thumb"), you’re compounding the problem at work by pounding on the keyboard or overusing your mouse. If left untreated, the pain could spread into the forearm. A doctor may suggest injections with corticosteroids to help you heal.
The surprise threat: Check your space bar: Rempel says that it's the most frequently hit key (even more than "delete"), and if it's temperamentally sticky or unresponsive to a light touch, you'll increase the strain on your already-tender thumb. Your mouse, especially if it requires pressing buttons with your thumb, could also be making things worse.
2. The pain that nags at you throughout the day.
What you feel: A burning ache in the back of your neck that no amount of self-massage can rub out.
What it might be: You're craning your head forward to check email or get a better look at tables and charts. Rempel says that your monitor should be at eye level—even if you're standing while typing. Give screens a boost with books (finally, a good use for your dictionary), or place the entire device on a shelf or filing cabinet. And make sure the screen isn't too far away. You should be able to easily see lowercase characters when you're leaning back in your chair, Rempel says, so that you don't have to hunch close to read.
The surprise threat: Your neck pain could be due to something hiding behind you—or on you. Today's sleek laptops are highly reflective, and Rempel says that many people unconsciously crook their necks to see around glares caused by overhead lighting, windows or even white-colored clothing.
Next: The ache that persists even when you exhale