Health risks related to having an office job. How do you deal with them? Help!!
Thread poster: Andrea Diaz

Andrea Diaz
Mexico
Local time: 02:14
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jul 11, 2014

Hello, I am somewhat new to the profession, and I want to ask some questions to some of the more experienced translators.

My body doesn't respond well to being in front of my laptop every day. Lately I've had some fairly annoying arm cramps. My leg joints ache if I'm sitting in the same position for too long, and my lower back hurts.
I used to be very active in college. I went to the gym 2-3 times per week, and I enjoyed moving around. This career is a big change from my former lifestyle, and my body is not happy.

I try to start my morning with some stretching excercises, and move around the house once in a while. However, when I have a rush project and pull all-nighters, my body takes a heavy toll. I don't know how to describe it, but my arms just don't feel like working anymore. This somewhat worries me, because I'm still young (26), and I don't want to develop serious health problems in the future.

What I want to ask is, how do you deal with this? Do you have some tricks? Excellent stretching techniques? I wish I could go to the gym often like I used to, but when I have a rush project, I don't even leave my house much. Or did you just get used to it and I have to "hacer callo y aguantarme"?


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Kirsten Bodart  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 09:14
Dutch to English
+ ...
It sounds like you're getting RSI Jul 11, 2014

repetitive strain injury. The existence of it is disputed, but there are some guides on how to tackle it on the internet, including pressure point massage. I think it helps. That's actually the most difficult point of all, because you need to use your arms and hands always in the same way. If your muscles ache because you have been doing too much work, then you need to stretch them.

When it comes to pain in your legs and back due to sitting down, I conquered that by working standing up for a few months (my quadriceps problem I think was related to too much swimming, which has stopped receptly). I think I'll start working standing up again soon. It's actually quite fun and it's not so weird, because back in the days of Twain, people used to read and write standing up. It's also much faster when you have to get something, because you go away a soon as you want. Your legs get tired, but then you can go and sit down. What do you do if your legs get tired when you are already sitting down?


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Nicole Coesel  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 09:14
Member (2012)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Office chair and wrist support Jul 12, 2014

Hello Andrea,

I have purchased a very good office chair: height, back, back support and inclination adjustable, as well as adjustable/removable armrests. Not cheap but worth the investment!I also use a keyboard with a gel pad in front of it to support my wrists.

This prevents all kinds of problems that sound like yours.

Make sure you are in the correct position while you work, and that your screen(s) are at an adequate distance and height.

Hope this helps!

Good luck


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Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 17:14
Japanese to English
+ ...
You might want to... Jul 12, 2014

...look into speech recognition as a method of input. Also I agree that a really good office chair is of paramount importance.

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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:14
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Change your keyboard Jul 12, 2014

My body doesn't respond well to being in front of my laptop every day. Lately I've had some fairly annoying arm cramps.

I had similar problems in my early 30s. I changed to ergonomic keyboards - such as this one - and made sure that I had a good, adjustable chair. In my case I bought the same chair that I was using at work, namely an Aeron but not all people find those comfortable. After I made these changes the problems largely went away.

In the case of your laptop you can probably plug in an external keyboard. I would also consider connecting a separate and larger monitor (24" or 27") that will allow you to see text more clearly. You may feel fine now, but over the course of a decade or so peering at small screens takes its toll on your eyes. It's usually possible to switch off the laptop's own screen, close the lid and keep the laptop running as normal. Then you can use the external keyboard, mouse and monitor to operate the machine.

You may find that a different mouse helps. I like trackballs for example.

Anyway, I'm glad to see that you're treating this seriously. It's important to find ways of softening the impact on your body of a working style for which it wasn't designed.


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Andrea Diaz
Mexico
Local time: 02:14
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Wow. Jul 13, 2014

Thank you for your kind suggestions. It never occured to me that I could develop these problems at my age, specially since sitting in front of my laptop is second nature to me. I will seriously consider the office chair and the keyboard as a work investment. Working while standing up sounds strange, but it sounds like a good idea.


I actually work on my couch. It's an old and comfortable sofa for two persons. I rearrange the cushions and some extra pillows according to how I feel most comfortable, and shift positions often. My cats can also keep me company without fighting for space. If I get too tired of sitting (how weird!), I pace around the house, or practice some Arabbian dancing moves. I took classes in college, and since the moves are centered on the lower half of the body, I found that the exercise helps me a lot with my cramps. But I will look for something else for my back and fingers. Once again, thank you for your valuable input.


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Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 09:14
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
Couch is not good Jul 14, 2014

When working long hours in a sitting position, it is crucial to find the right position. I have made the experience that working on the couch or on the bed for too long gives me a nasty ache in my hip joints and back. And although I do work the occasional hour on couch or bed, I usually sit at my desk, which I have fixed according to my needs. My chair is not an expensive office chair, but an old chair from the checkout counter of a supermarket. It happens to be just right, so I keep it even though it's ugly and old. I keep it very low and work with the keyboard on my knees, and I use speech recognition to have to type less (and work faster). I use special glasses because my eyes get very tired from the screen. With this rather unusual setup and plenty of exercise in my spare time I get along quite well. But I must say I also was surprised how quickly I started having problems, I am only 34 and never had any health issues before.

Find out what works best for you. Changing position often is also helpful, if you can, have several places in your home where you can work. But most importantly, set up a work place where you can sit upright, with your arms in a relaxed position and with the screen at the proper height - looking down on the screen is something we do a lot when working with a laptop, and it is very bad for the neck.

Best regards,
Sarah


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 09:14
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Stretch and exercise frequently Jul 14, 2014

At one office I worked at, the printer and the coffee kitchen were at opposite ends of a long corridor, with offices on each side.

People regularly emerged from them and went along to one end or the other rolling their shoulders or stretching their ankles as they went. The motto was 'Don't laugh, join us!'

Wherever people sat, they frequently had to get up and walk along the corridor to collect coffee or printouts, and this was a tiny opportunity to loosen up. Some were absolute experts at walking and loosening one shoulder while holding a coffee cup in the opposite hand, swapping halfway and loosening the other shoulder.

Walk around while answering the phone was another piece of advice, but I need to take notes when on the phone, so that may not work.

Take a few moments to stretch at regular intervals - it gets more and more important as you get older. And keep going to the gym or getting some kind of exercise in good company - I go for walks with a small club of really lovely people in the countryside, but not everyone is able to do that. Others prefer something competitive, but I am neither a team player nor a sportswoman and I always lose!

Exercising alone gets dull, and it takes a lot of determination to keep it up. But if you enjoy meeting friends over it, you are doing youself and them a favour...

I have always been lucky with RSI and back pain, but I know how to provoke a migraine attack and how to avoid them... Know your own problems and do something about them before they get chronic.

Make sure the lighting for your screen is correct - not too much contrast between screen and background, or your eyes are constantly trying to adjust and will tire. And of course, wear suitable glasses if you need them.
It is absolutely amazing how much difference correct lighting makes to headaches and tiredness. And seasonal fluctuations are important - I need to see daylight each day during grey northern winters...

This is a great job if you can do it without ruining your health, but while you are concentrating you may not notice the aches and twinges. Don't ignore them when you take breaks!


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