Dubai, UAE: Today’s work culture of long hours spent sitting at a desk, often slouched in a chair, has forced workers and employers to come up with new and inexpensive solutions for dealing with the increasing problem of back pain.
Not only is it presenting an issue for employees’ comfort and concentration on the job but it’s also leading to lost productivity with people having to take time off.
About 80 per cent of the population will suffer from back pain at some point because of sedentary posture, estimates chiropractor Dr Tamara Ghazi, who says the solution is simple: people need to stand up more.
Standing desks in offices and in schools are “proven to increase focus and interest in work, improve attention span and improve overall health”, she said.
“Sitting kills. It is a cause of obesity and puts increased pressure on discs, which degenerate with time. Lack of using muscles causes atrophy and weakness, which leads to pain.”
Dr Ghazi said educating people about preventive care and introducing corporate wellness programmes that allow exercise and stretching in the workplace would be helpful.
“Medication is not the answer, it only masks symptoms rather than fixing the cause,” she said. “In high quantities it also harms the body by damaging the liver.”
Bernadette Abraham knows first-hand the benefits of working at an upright desk. She began suffering shoulder issues after spending long periods sitting while studying for her master’s degree in exercise science.
The personal trainer and nutritionist invested in a standing desk after six months of physiotherapy failed to help mobilise her shoulder. When her condition was at its worse, she could not lift her arm above her head.
“It wasn’t until I changed my work set-up that I was able to relieve my pain,” she said.
“It was totally posture related. Even as a personal trainer and someone who exercises every day, it’s not enough. We spend hours sitting, working, driving, socialising, so we have to do something more.”
Greater awareness of the alternatives is the best way to combat what Ms Abraham called the “sitting disease”.
Rather than sit in a traditional seat she uses a mobile standing chair. She takes it everywhere, even while waiting for her daughter to finish her gymnastics class. She also uses a higher countertop or shelf as a desk for her laptop.
“The more people hear about it the more open they are to trying it, so the main thing is getting more people using them,” Ms Abraham said.
Focal Upright chairs and desks are being introduced into offices around the emirate, including at law firms and IT companies and the Knowledge and Human Development Authority, the emirate’s education regulator.
Standard Chartered Bank has introduced Herman Miller ergonomic chairs for 2,000 employees at its Dubai offices.
Jennifer Kang, the bank’s head of sustainability and community outreach programmes, called employee well-being a priority.
“We spend so much time at work sitting, so to help prevent ergonomic illness we decided to provide these chairs,” she said.
© The NationalJul 2015