When Work Becomes a Pain in the Neck: Muscular Aches and Pains and Stress Are the Unfortunate By-Products of the Financial Services Industry, Predominantly a Seated Workplace. but There Are Simple and Inexpensive Remedies. (Workplace Health)

By Roylance, Dieter | Journal of Banking and Financial Services, February 2003 | Go to article overview

When Work Becomes a Pain in the Neck: Muscular Aches and Pains and Stress Are the Unfortunate By-Products of the Financial Services Industry, Predominantly a Seated Workplace. but There Are Simple and Inexpensive Remedies. (Workplace Health)


Roylance, Dieter, Journal of Banking and Financial Services


Is work a pain in the lower back, shoulders and neck? Most desk-bound workers will experience these discomforts at least once, but unfortunately many will do so on a daily basis. And muscular pain is not the only cause for concern in the banking and financial services industry, with stress also on the rise as demands placed on employees are increased.

Whether it is physical injury or stress-related illness, workplace-related maladies impose a well-documented financial burden on an employer. Associated costs include increased workers' compensation premiums, lost productivity, retraining and finding a new person for the injured person's role.

In relation to workers' compensation claims, the banking and financial services industry is well-known in two areas. These are sprains and strains (or soft tissue injuries) which, using Victoria as an example, accounted for 54 per cent of all claims lodged by the industry; and stress which comprises 16 per cent. In the sprains and strains category back-related claims account for 63 per cent, meaning 21 per cent of all claims are back related.

The cost

The high cost of claims are borne out by official figures from the Victorian authority WorkCover, which show sprains and strains cost $1.83 million and stress claims cost $1.94 million for the half year to December 2001. This is a sharp increase on four years previously, when the full year (1997-98) sprains and strains figure was $1.83 million and stress $1.76 million.

So in effect the incidence of claims has more than doubled in four years. Multiply these Victorian figures across the whole of Australia and New Zealand and you get a disturbing indication of the relevance of the topic for AIBF members.

Technology and convenience

The proliferation of laptop computers could be one reason for the sharp increase in claims. Some companies believe that it is more cost effective--that if employees require a laptop, they do not get a desktop computer for their office as well.

Laptops generally result in the user having poor posture, because of the size and position of the keyboard and monitor. This can be overcome by connecting the laptop to a correctly set up monitor and keyboard when the employee is in their office.

Posture

There are a number of different aspects that need to be considered to ensure employees' health and safety. As posture is the foundation for all movements, it is extremely important that the body is correctly aligned. People seated for long periods are usually unaware of their posture, with their poor positioning likely to result in gradual degeneration of body parts.

Some of the more noticeable changes that can be noticed concern the head, shoulders and the neck, although the lower back and arms can also be areas of pain.

Forward head posture can be identified by the position of your cheek bone in relation to your collar bone. The further your head is protruding, the greater the strain on the neck muscles and the greater the chance for you to have associated pain. If the head is forward, the shoulders will be rounded and in conjunction with this your upper back (thoracic) curve is increased.

Rounded shoulders can then produce pain in the chest, neck, and down the arm. Therefore, as a result of forward head posture, you have rounded shoulders, and neck strain, with muscle soreness in your chest, shoulders and neck.

Heavy headed

The head, by the way, accounts for 8 per cent of body weight. Most people with forward head posture will therefore force their neck muscles to carry two to three times the weight of their head. To get a further idea of the burden on the neck, hold your arm out to the side for as long as you can and think of it holding three of your heads!

All these conditions are directly related to each other, with differing degrees of severity, but all can be caused by a number of different things. …

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