Top 10 Ways to Avoid Joint and Wrist Pain at the Office


Working long hours at a desk, whether you use a computer all day or some other tool to get your work done, can wreak havoc on your wrists, knees, and other joints. Here are ten ways you can keep them in good health, and reduce the pain and discomfort your day-to-day may be putting you through.

10. Stay Hydrated

Drinking more water has a ton of benefits, one of which being better joint health (not to mention better overall health.) You don’t have to drink a pre-prescribed amount or anything—just drink when you’re thirsty, or better yet, keep a nice big bottle of water near your desk and make a point to drain it every now and again.

Keeping yourself hydrated will keep your body happy (and seriously, you’ll feel better too,) but it’ll also keep you from reaching for hand-to-mouth snacks. Perhaps more importantly from an at-the-office perspective though, it’ll get you up and moving around on a regular basis as you go to refill that water bottle, and…well, as you go to the bathroom because you’ve been drinking so much water. Consider them small, short breaks where you get a chance to get up from your desk and move around a bit.

9. Take Regular Breaks to Get Up and Move Around

Speaking of taking every opportunity to get up and move around, doing so is another good way to stave off muscle and joint pain or soreness at work. Whether it’s giving your poor wrists a chance to rest and recover between long sessions of typing, or giving your knees a break and alleviating the pressure on them that comes with sitting for long periods (not to mention all the other ways sitting for hours on end is bad for you,) getting up just to stretch, walk around the office, and maybe get some face time with your coworkers, is a great idea. Ideally you wouldn’t go more than 9o minutes without taking one.

Of course, once you’re sitting at work doing your thing, inertia makes it really difficult to break that focus and get up to stretch. That’s where technology comes in. Apps like previously mentioned Rest for Mac, Aware for Mac, or Workrave for Windows and Linux, can all remind you to take breaks periodically. Either way, make it as painless as possible so you actually do it, and your body will thank you. Bonus, taking more breaks will actually make you more productive, as well as healthier.

8. Switch Up Your Office Location (If You Can)

If you have the flexibility to, switch up where you work. If you have a work-issued laptop and an office with common areas or conference rooms—or even phone rooms you can escape into, grab one for a few hours at a time. Of course, not everyone has the privilege to have a desk they work at for a few hours, and then some comfy couches or a common area they can work at for the rest of the day (especially if people swing by your desk looking for you often), but if you do, take it.

Alternatively, consider switching desks with a colleague from time to time, or even hitting a nearby coffee shop, or better yet, a library, where you can settle in, focus, and there’s Wi-Fi and power aplenty. Wherever you roam, here are some tips to stay productive when you’re working from not the office.

7. Work Remotely When You Can

In the same vein as working from different desks and locations whenever you can, consider working from home too, if you have space to do so. For many of us, working from a home office is more relaxing, more comfortable, and in most cases, just more space. Of course, just like above, your home office, a coffee shop, or a library may not offer better ergonomics, but being able to choose and change the position you work in can be a benefit in itself.

Even if you opt to work from bed, you can do so with good posture—better than sitting at an uncomfortable desk all day, for sure. In fact, just about anywhere you go, you probably have some control over ergonomics, so don’t hesitate to exercise it.

6. Consider a Sit/Stand Desk Setup

If you can’t just work from a place not your desk, and you do have a little flexibility about what your desk is like, consider a sit/stand setup. You don’t have to go full standing desk (unless you want to, of course!) but a flexible sit-or-stand desk gives you the best of both worlds. Check out our guide to choosing (or building) the perfect standing desk for some inspiration.

Keep in mind though, sometimes you’ll just want to sit, and other times it’ll work better to stand. The real point here is to make sure you get some regular movement and don’t wind up in one place and position all day long. If you do use a standing desk, check out this standing desk yoga routine. Either way, there’s plenty of other things you can do to keep yourself limber, even while you sit.

5. Don’t Overlook Your Clothes

Regardless of the dress code at your office, make sure you wear comfortable, well-fitted clothes. Even if you have to squeeze on professional garb every day, the least you can do is make sure it’s not too tight, uncomfortable, or worse, so hard to move around in that you can’t stretch or move your arms and legs with full range of motion. After all, you spend eight hours of the day in these clothes. They should be comfortable, supportive, and healthy to work in, whatever your job may be.

I learned a long time ago that even if your approach to work clothes is to buy cheap as long as it remotely fits, you’re doing your look—and your health—a disservice every time you cut off circulation to your legs, or wear something just too tight around the arms or sleeves that your wrists feel awful at the end of the day. Then you inevitable have to replace them. Bottom line: cheap clothes are too expensive. Buy quality instead.

4. Embrace Fidgeting and Simple Stretches If You’re Chained to Your Desk

Maybe you don’t have the type of job that allows you to just up and walk around whenever you want, or take a break whenever you’d like to stretch. That’s okay—frankly, few of us really do. Most people have to be at their desk to get work done, and if they’re not at their desk working, someone’s missing them, whether they have to take calls, crank out reports, or write code. For those folks, fidgeting and small movements are where it’s at.

When I worked in a call center and had to be on a phone for hours and hours a day, fidgeting and other minimal exercises I could do while I was on the phone with someone or within reach of my headset from my desk were a windfall. Embrace them. Swing around in your chair a bit. Stretch out your legs where you can, either into the space behind your desk or under it. Do wrist stretches and small exercises through the day. Get whatever activity in your joints and muscles you can, even if you can’t get away from your desk. Bonus: it helps you focus, too.

3. Reboot Your Workspace for Ergonomics

Stretching, bending, working from different locations, and staying hydrated are all good, but there’s a certain point where you just need to buckle down and rearrange your desk. If your desk is set up to cause you pain, well, no amount of trying to fidget and stretch will really fix it. Take a little time to completely reboot your workspace, and do it with ergonomics and healthy posture in mind.

Start by cleaning everything out and come up with a plan for how you’d ideally like to work. Then start with your chair, then your keyboard and mouse, and your monitor, working around all of the items you have and use on your desk and position them so you’re not craning to use them, bending awkwardly to type or read, and the things you need are within easy reach. If you need to make a few ergonomic upgrades to your desk while you’re at it, we have some suggestions there, too.

2. Keep Fit Outside the Office

The next big thing you can do to relieve joint and wrist pain while you work is to make sure you keep yourself flexible, limber, and healthy outside the office as well as inside the office. Luckily, good joint health and flexibility isn’t hard to maintain. Simple stretches, foam rolling, and some easy-to-do mobility drills can do a world of good but at and outside the office. Foam rolling is also good for improving your posture, and can even help you with strength training.

Beyond keeping your joints limber, don’t neglect the rest of your body. A good bodyweight workout will keep you healthy and you don’t need any special equipment, but if you already hit the gym regularly, don’t forget to do some strength training. They can do a world of good for those aching joints and muscles. Even some simple hip flexes and regular stretches at home can offset some of the effects of all that sitting.

1. Incorporate Simple Stretches and Office Yoga Into Your Routine

Finally, no matter where you work or what you do, there’s always room for some light stretches at your desk, a little office yoga (at your desk, or even in the stairwell,) or some posture exercises and stretches up against a wall to help you combat the effects of sitting in front of a screen or over a keyboard all day. If you have a little room to stretch out, these three exercises only take four minutes. Even shorter on time? Try thirty seconds.

Don’t neglect your posture, either. These exercises are perfect for the gym, while these ones are easy enough while you sit. These back stretches keep your lower back healthy, and these ones will keep your neck from craning forward. They’re just the tip of the iceberg though. Find some good ones that work for you, your desk, and the amount of time you have between meetings, calls, or other activities, and you’ll do your body good.

Illustration by Angelica Alzona. Additional images by Sam Woolley, Brian Robinson, etraveler (Shutterstock), Tony Alter, Angelica Alzona, Barry Peddycord III, Rennett Stowe, and Joe Loong.


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