Work-related injuries are on the rise among techies

We’ve more or less become a nation of slouchers, thanks to all those hours spent in front of the computer, not to mention the television too. None more so than the IT professionals, it seems, who spend a majority of their working life sedentary, hunched in front of their computer screens. Perhaps that’s why increasingly more and more of them are suffering from work-related injuries – neck and back pain, spondylitis, cervical disc prolapse, and repetitive stress on the wrist and arms that leads to carpel tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, golf elbow and the like, all of which is due to wrong posture.

Explains Dr. Santosh Kumar, Orthopaedic Surgeon, Government Medical College, Thiruvananthapuram: “Wrong posture increases strain on muscles, tendons, and ligaments – they will be in a state of chronic fatigue. This in turn brings the entire weight on the bones, which in turn affects the nerves… The vicious cycle thus begins.”

“It’s a constant health threat for many techies these days. We keep getting requests for leave in the wake of these injuries and also for updated, more ergonomic chairs to help them correct their posture,” says Rinku Prakash, who works in administration for IBS at Technopark. “I myself suffer from back pain and neck pain, regular pins and needles in my legs and also fatigue in the pelvic muscles.”

In fact, almost every other techie you talk to complains about suffering from one such pain or the other. Rinku’s colleague Veena A. Prasad, who has been working in the IT field for the past seven years says: “I keep getting back pain and shoulder pain. I’m small in stature and I find it difficult to bend. Many of my colleagues, especially the women, who simply don’t have the time to exercise given their hectic schedules, complain of the same aches and pains.”

Interestingly, many techies who are suffering from such health issues say that the problems begin as early as their mid 20s. Take for instance, 34-year-old techie Santosh Samuel. “It's as if no age is too young these days. I have been suffering from neck and back pain on and off for over 10 years now. Long hours in front of the computer and riding my bike to and from work contributed to it. It started off with pins and needles and gradually it developed into full blown aches. In fact, it reached a stage where I couldn’t walk or move my hand. I am just back from three weeks leave, during which time I underwent Ayurveda treatment and physiotherapy.”

Techie Sandeep A.V., also 34, meanwhile, quit his cushy job in Dubai because of Spondylitis, caused by inflammation of the vertebra. “I’ve been suffering from it for around six years now. I never imagined I would get it at that young an age. The slouching was a major factor. Also, the air conditioning my office was such that the vent was directly above my head and a result my neck would get stiff. One fine day I just woke up with spondylitis. I now work in logistics for an MNC in Technopark, and that means I get to move around the office a lot, so it is much under control. Now, my sister, Sangeetha, 36, who works at Infosys, has got spondylitis!”

It’s not that companies don’t provide ergonomic chairs for the employees or that they don’t conduct awareness drives to promote better posture. As we understand, they do – in plenty. But, as many techies will tell you, it’s the individual effort that counts in this instance.

Says Veena: “I’ve learnt the hard way that I have to get up and move, every once in a while. For example, earlier I would keep a bottle of water by my desk. Now, each time I want a drink I make myself get up and go to the pantry. It’s a simple but an effective way that my doctor told me to mitigate these issues.” Warns Sandeep: “Take it from someone with experience, techies cannot afford to be complacent about their posture any longer.”

Doctor says

Keep monitor of the computer at eye level

Sit in an ergonomic chair, with feet on the floor

Avoid sitting for a long time. Get up and walk every 30 to 35 minutes; stretch arms and legs

Exercise regularly