How our new ways of working generate new pain

Illustration of an employee suffering from back pain. – AIRIO / LEHTIKUVA OY / SIPA

  • Heavy loads, repetitive gestures, trampling cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), but also sitting and sedentary work.
  • If the sectors of activity most affected by these pathologies are agribusiness, automotive industry, metallurgy, construction, mass retail and personal services, tertiary employees are not spared.
  • Especially since the new ways of working, on mobile phone, smartphone or at home, can amplify certain pains or generate new evils.

Driving a truck or lifting patients all day will be more of a strain on your body than answering the phone sitting all day. But if physical ailments are common for drivers, cashiers and hairdressers, tertiary employees are not spared by musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). These pathologies (carpal tunnel syndrome, low back pain, tendonitis …) affect about one in ten workers and
 were in France in 2010 9.7 million days of work stoppage … Ask your colleagues, we bet that the epidemic of TMS is not as devastating as 20 minutes ! Especially since our new ways of working will not necessarily relieve back, hands, cervical, knees … Review of these practices that affect our health.

Sitting work

ailments: Studies hammer him:
working all day screwed on his chair seriously harms your health. "While in the 1970s, it was thought that white-collar workers would not be sick, disability related to low back pain has increased 14 times faster than the general population," said Xavier Dufour, physiotherapist and ergonomist. By staying seated and sedentary in a situation of flexion of the hip, knees and shoulders, one becomes quite stiff. There are three major pain points related to sedentary lumbar region (lower back), cervico-dorsal region (neck) and shoulders. "

The little advice : For the employee, you must hear his pain before it becomes lumbago or sciatica that you nail in bed. "The pathologies, lumbago or TMS, are the result of repetitive movements and pains not taken into account", explains Audrey Yargui, vice-president of
the French Chiropractic Association. And so do not hesitate to consult a chiropractor, an osteopath, a physiotherapist, rheumatologist according to your preferences.

For companies, we should change our minds because "today, we consider health as a cost and not as an investment," regrets Leonardo Querelle, ergonomist and president of the national union of consulting firms in ergonomics. However, make workstations more ergonomic is economic … "All studies converge to say that a suitable office can earn 10% productivity in the tertiary sector, says the ergonomist. A chiropractor can relieve you of a backache, but if the workstation does not evolve, the patient takes a sustainable subscription at home. "For ten years, I trained in a fruit and vegetable company to identify the pathologies of each employee, but above all their origin, and in the first year, there were 50% fewer pains," says Sophie Ravel. Verdun, chiropractor.

The mouse

ailments: With computer work, it's not just the lower back that gets stuck and drooling. The other little concern is your hands. The mouse, manipulated, triturated, clicked 4,848 times a day, causes a lot of carpal tunnel syndromes, the most common TMS. This syndrome, which results in tingling, sensitivity disorders and decreased strength accounted for 37% of occupational diseases compensable in 2006. "But beware, a TMS is always multifactorial: a carpal tunnel can result from a bad mouse, stuck between phone and file, associated with diabetes, poorly installed position, tension at work and significant mental load ", nuance Christian Meignan, Vice President of
Kiné France Prevention in charge of health at work.

The little advice : Ergonomic, useful and inexpensive mice can relieve those who complain of carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, tendonitis of the elbow or wrist. "The idea that there are only vertical mice that relieve is false, they create other constraints and for 99% of people a standard mouse is ideal," warns Christian Meignan. He advises on the other hand to well adjust the parameters of his mouse: "if one is obliged to make 20 cm on his desk to manipulate it, one will tire the shoulder".

The flex office with laptop and smartphone

ailments: Also in fashion, this concept of
flex office, that is to say employees who no longer have an office. Such a redevelopment can be accompanied by the creation of rooms of different sizes and uses: small isolated office room, cafeteria with high tables, nap room … "It's interesting because it leads to change of position, except that this change must be accompanied ", Xavier Dufour warns. Do not have any benchmarks, its little mug, its photos, its links and applications that are launched direct is indeed not always comfortable psychologically and efficiently …

Mobility then results in the replacement of the computer and landline phones with laptops and smartphones. A change that does not go without some physical consequences … "If you look at something on a small screen, naturally you will get closer to the object, your head will advance towards the screen and increase this phenomenon of winding, says Xavier Dufour. This will increase muscle contraction, increase back muscle fatigue at the end of the day and increase stiffness. Especially with a laptop that is generally too low compared to your eyes! Same problem if you spend hours curled on your smartphone, you risk thumb cramp and big neck pain.

The little advice : Buy a big screen to connect to your laptop -computer or smartphone- so you do not dodge your eyes in addition to the neck. "Be careful though if you work on two screens not to spend the day turned to the side," warns Leonard Querelle. Ideally, both screens should be herringbone and cross at your nose.

Specialists also recommend spending five minutes each morning on a brief gym or yoga session. Even stall a few stretches during the office day. "The goal is to find our extension, so we must stand up straight but also go backwards, what I call" the cushioning of the chest to the football "! ", Illustrates Xavier Dufour.

Ok but when you have a big rush, how to find the right posture? "Bad news, it does not exist, smiles the physio. The good posture is the next, which relieves is to change, to be dynamic rather than static. And so take advantage of any coffee break, pee, meeting to walk, go out for lunch outside, go live chat with his colleague at three offices rather than send him an email, take the stairs and no the elevator…


Telework, which is growing more and more, has many advantages: less noise, less transport, more concentration … Except that when we do not have an office, we risk being slumped in his sofa, his laptop on the knees … First problem: the computer, it heats, so do not be surprised if you end up with red patches on the thighs. But especially work folded in two may cost you a lot in osteo / physio / chiropractor …

The little advice : You are at home, so you can take the opportunity to change position, work standing up, make a phone call while walking, extend a laundry … And why not set up a small comfortable office with or without the help of a ergonomist? And Christian Meignan to remember: "the top of the screen should reach the level of your brow bone and be 50 cm from your eye if it measures 15 inches". Possibly with a chair or even an adjustable desk. "The height of the seat should be adjusted according to the length of the tibia," says the ergonomist. That gives a simple landmark: your feet touch the ground and the angle of your feet, knees and hips should be around 90 °. By cons, no need to ruin ergonomic chair, who surf marketing without real benefits.