Officium Illud Operatur (The Office Worker)

Updated: Mar 3, 2020

Officium illud operatur, known colloquially as the common office worker, is a species of humanoid found in almost every habitat around the world. Generally diurnal in nature they can be found scurrying away throughout the day in every season of the year. They have evolved to collect and hoard away annelid worm type creatures called ‘data’ which they ingest and process, ingeniously converting these squiggly little critters into sustenance. Not unlike the bacteria-digesting and sometimes cannibalistic tardigrade (or water bear), a micro-animal that can survive in extreme and hostile environments as diverse as volcanoes and deep within the waters of the Antarctic, the office worker has also adapted to survive in similarly harsh environments.

From the eerie savanna like exposure of the open plan office to the precarious and often fraught-with-danger home office (bed), they can be observed hunched over, slouching or in a meerkat state of alertness in front of a complex device constructed to trap their wormy and wily meal. While this marvellous creature has evolved to survive in these seemingly strange and inhospitable conditions, it’s physical anatomy has yet to sufficiently adapt, causing many to endure physical impairment or at least pain and discomfort (usually felt in the shoulders, neck arms and lower back) and sometimes psychological distress too.

Sitting at a desk, at a computer, for prolonged periods of time causes our muscles to react in ways that are not optimal for our bodies, causing imbalance...and eventually a hardening of muscular conditions can occur.

Those afflicted often resort to extreme measures to alleviate their symptoms and normalise their condition, including taking regular medication, immersing themselves in long periods of social media interactions at work and, while in a seemingly traumatised like paralysis, binge watching television sitcoms after work to divert themselves from discomfort. In some of the most serious of cases, office workers will even attempt employing a standing desk in a desperate attempt to cure their illness (always with the best of intentions, of course, they usually find themselves back in that office chair more and more until one day the standing desk becomes an invisible fixture in their work space, like that workplace health and safety VHS tape still perched at the bottom of the bookshelf).

My advice: get out now, while you still can! Become a hunter-gatherer. Or a Yoga Instructor. Or a massage therapist perhaps. However, if that’s not feasible, then there are certain things you can do to be a happier office worker. I’d suggest a much simpler and more straight forward strategy if I thought people would take it seriously, such as regular stretching and movement throughout one’s work day and regular exercise outside of work. While not guaranteed to effectively eradicate one's symptoms, these activities can have a significant impact on one’s overall well being and the body’s ability to counteract the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. However, countless scientific studies* (*my experiences and observation) have shown that the hominid brain will quickly leak out any intention to practice regulated self-care that doesn’t provide an immediate rush of serotonin or adrenaline. So, over a long period of time what generally happens instead is the office worker ends up living in a contorted kind of misery hell (perhaps slightly exaggerated for dramatic effect) or will potentially require medical treatment and extensive physical therapy.

The symptoms and pain that can arise from the sedentary lifestyle of, most commonly, the office worker will generally start off minor and potentially come and go. This can depend on one’s workload or the mind’s focus of attention. But, left unattended, it will gradually increase if your workplace behaviour doesn’t change. Posture is the most significant input factor. While repetitive strain is another — mainly the prolonged use of a mouse, which can cause conditions such as Tennis Elbow or Golfer’s Elbow.

So, what’s happening to the body of officium illud operatur?

Sitting at a desk, at a computer, for prolonged periods of time causes our muscles to react in ways that are not optimal for our bodies, causing imbalance. Over time the muscles in our shoulders and back (trapezius) will become stretched, tight and weakened. While the muscles in our chest (pectoralis) shorten and tighten. The weakness in our trapezius, over time, leads to an over reliance on our rotator cuff muscles causing pain and strain. Because this happens gradually — and if we dismiss the first signs as little niggles that will go away on their own — by the time it turns into pain the body is going to resist good posture due to its weakened muscles and eventually a hardening of muscular conditions can occur.

A less drastic solution is to, when you notice your body’s a little out of sorts, get a massage once in a while instead of leaving it until the problem areas solidify into more significant issues. A massage will help loosen and relieve tension and tightness, while also loosening and stretching out contracted muscles. The aim is to re-balance your muscular system to allow your body to re-adapt to a healthy posture. And to relieve pain and give you back greater range of motion. But if you, like many others, have left it a little late and the condition seems to have solidified a series of regular massage treatments over the course of a few weeks will do wonders.

Andrew Dib Massage provides treatments in Deep Tissue, Relaxation and Lomi Lomi massage. All modalities can be of benefit to you depending on your condition and preferences. Read more about them on my Home Page and make an appointment by clicking on Book Online or contact me directly on 0405 976 605.

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