Is Pain at Work Normal?

Time and time again, when we conduct workshops and ergo evaluations in an office setting ,and ask this simple question:

“How do you feel at work?”

we often get this response:

Pretty good.”

followed by:

“I guess.  I mean, sort of.  I mean, you know how it is.”

When pressed a little further, we more often than not hear:

I get the usual work stuff.  You know, sore shoulder and neck and my eyes feel fatigued.  And sometimes when I use the mouse a lot my wrist gets kind of achy, but you know – that’s normal, right?

NO.  Pain at work is NOT Normal.

Neither is eye strain or headaches or extreme fatigue.   Muscle aches, joint pain, numbing and tingling and even having cold hands is not normal. These are signs that your body is giving you to let you know that something is wrong and needs your attention, NOW.

But here’s the good news; most work-related aches and pains are caused by something amiss in the way you have yourself set up at work, something amiss in the way you are using your body, or a combination of the two.

Connecting the Dots

Here is a quick reference guide to help you play detective and find the root cause of the most common discomforts related to work. This, in turn, will help you figure out what changes to make in order to feel better!

Eye Strain & Headaches: Typical complaints related to eye strain and headaches include dry eyes, screen fatigue and blurred vision.  The most common root causes of these symptoms include:

  • Excessive Screen Time (without breaks)
  • Poor Lighting (too bright, too dark)
  • Poor Contrast on Screen(s)
  • Glare on Screen(s)
  • Vision Problems (Check up needed!)


Back Pain: Back pain can arise at any point in your career and can be felt in your upper, mid or lower back.  The nature of the discomfort can range from a dull chronic ache to achy sore muscles and even acute stabbing pain that can literally stop you in your tracks.  While there can be many reasons for back pain, the common culprits at the computer are:

  • Poor Posture (Slouching, Low Riding, Over Arching)
  • Bending and Lifting
  • Poor Toning of Abs and Back Muscles
  • Prolonged Sitting or Standing
  • Stress and Tension

Neck and Shoulder Pain: This can include pain across the top of your shoulders, pain in your shoulder blade area, pain in your neck and shoulder stiffness and restricted or painful movement.  Very often the causes of these discomforts include:

  • Monitor(s) Too High, Low or Off Center
  • Laptop Use Without Laptop Riser or External Screen and Keyboard / Mouse
  • Keyboard or Mouse Too High, Low or Far From Reach
  • Hunching, Rounding, Extending of Shoulders
  • Leaning Chin in Hand (on Elbow)


Arm, Wrist and Hand Discomfort:  It is very common to experience discomfort in your forearms (top or bottom), elbows, wrists, hands or fingers.  While our hands and arms are in use pretty much from morning to night, at the computer, be on the lookout for:

  • Keyboard or Mouse Too High, Low or Far From Reach
  • Death Grip On the Mouse
  • Excessive Force When Typing
  • Texting With Thumbs Only
  • Resting Your Wrists on Wrist Rest When Typing

Hips, Legs and Feet:  It is very easy to overlook the connection that computer work has with strain on your lower extremities.  Whether you are feeling pain in your hips, tush, legs and or feet, it would be a good idea to inspect the following:

  • Prolonged Sitting
  • Prolonged Standing
  • Standing on Hard Surface
  • Not Enough Cushioning & Support in Shoes
  • Lack of Stretching

Hopefully this helps and feel free to leave questions in the comments or reach out directly if you need some further help.

Until the next time!




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