What causes discomfort, pain and injury, and how to prevent it.

Slumping over that laptop, humping a crate of beer up the hill, sinking into the old couch for hours on end playing play-station. Multiple factors in each day may be putting pressure on your musculoskeletal system..

There are 7 categories to describe where these risks lie.  These categories are important as they emphasise that discomfort, pain and injury is not just related to sitting or standing or lifting and handling – but rather it is a combination of many factors.  Most importantly your risk is also related to all lifestyle stresses and choices.

ACC contributory factors

Sitting, Standing, Lifting and Handling is undertaken everywhere.  You may be carrying your laptop and bag around university, using the laptop in awkward positions, sitting at the desk for long hours in lectures and whilst studying, standing and reaching/bending with activities, sitting or driving to University, picking up your bag/laptop, or doing anything repetitive in general.  As well as this is daily lifting and handling associated with home; loading/unloading the dishwasher or washing machine (not often for some of you, I agree), reaching into cupboards or to hang out washing, gardening, making beds, vacuuming floors (again unlikely but possible!), sitting to study or watch TV, indulging in your own hobbies, and social events and networking.

You also have other stresses associated with university; the long hours, possibly a poor and challenging environment with difficult relationships with colleagues, other students or lecturers.  In addition, you have the stresses of your home life; possibly a poor and challenging environment, you may be sick or your partner may be sick, the financial pressures of daily living, the silly arguments with your partner/ flatmate/or the in-laws.  In combination these can increase your risk of discomfort, pain or injury.

So what can you do?

Take each of the categories and identify what you can do to reduce your chance of discomfort, pain or injury.  Remember these are sure to involve home as well as University.

Individual Factors

Can you:

  • improve your diet, hydration, health and fitness
  • get to bed earlier, get a massage or have a spa or hot bath to help relax tired or overworked muscles
  • give up smoking
  • reduce your drinking
  • get up often to break up sitting
  • get your eyes checked

Psychosocial Factors

Can you:

  • improve your relationships with your university colleagues, lecturers or partners or in-laws.
  • remember that discomfort or pain is normal and may not necessarily be as bad as it feels, and to actually go out for a walk or swim may actually help you.

Work Organisation

Can you:

  • talk freely with the University to ensure that you have allowed time for assignments so as not to become overwhelmed or stressed – talk to your colleagues or lecturers to try to find workable solutions – they want you to be fit and able to study after all.
  • If you are juggling sport and study, explain this to your sports coach at training that evening so that you can do something else, rather than risk further injury and missing your game in the weekend due to increased stress.  If you have had a heavy ‘sitting’ day you should not spend the evening sitting undertaking your particular hobby, or social networking on your wireless device.

Work Layout / Awkward Postures

Can you:

  • think of ways to reduce awkward aspects related to sitting/studying  – you may need to stand and stretch often, or take frequent breaks.  You may have to do specific ‘undo’ stretches or exercises.
  • think about the design of your house, the type of dining / lounge furniture, the set –up and layout of your lounge and TV.  The postures you adopt when relaxing at home.

Task Invariability

Can you:

  • can you vary tasks and postures so that there is more variety and less sustained positions.
  • reduce your TV watching, hobbies, gaming or social networking at home if you have had a particularly very busy sedentary day at University and even better go for a walk, swim or cycle.

Load / Forceful Movements

Can you:

  • reduce the force and therefore the chance of discomfort, pain or injury by using correct lifting and handling techniques at all times, contracting the core muscles, keeping the load close to the body and avoiding twisting.
  • remember that this applies to home and work

Environmental Issues

Can you:

  • talk to your lecturer/colleagues etc to see if others are also affected regarding noise, temperature, ventilation, lighting in the lecture halls
  • ensure that your home is warm and dry and dust free

Remember discomfort, pain and injury is multi-factorial. If you can adjust, reduce or eliminate any contributory factor then it will lessen your chance of discomfort, pain or injury affecting your life.  If you have discomfort, pain or injury that is not improving you should come and see us (Willis Street Physiotherapy @Vic is located on the ground floor of the student union building, Kelburn Campus – bookings Freephone 0800 842 749 / txt 027 774 9746 or email info@vicphysio.com)

Grant Plumbley, Director – Willis Street Physiotherapy



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