Office Health Hazards

man laptop work office Computers and hand-held devices can help us do our work easier and faster. But they can also increase the risk of office-related injuries. Common ones are repetitive motion disorders, computer vision syndromes, and falls. Learn more about these conditions and how you can help prevent them.

Repetitive Motion Disorders

Repetitive motion disorders (RMDs) are a group of muscle conditions. They result from repeated motions during your normal work or daily activities. The muscles and tendons become irritated and inflamed. This happens due to repeating movements and/or awkward postures. They may include twisting the arm or wrist, overuse, or incorrect posture. RMDs are most common in the hands, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. They can also happen in the neck, back, hips, knees, feet, legs, and ankles.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common RMD. This painful hand condition is caused by pressure on the main nerve that runs through the wrists. Repetitive motions can also lead to:

  • Bursitis—inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs which help muscles and tendons slide across bones
  • Tendonitis—inflammation of tendons, which connect muscles to bones
  • Epicondylitis—inflammation of an epicondyle, an area at the end of a bone where tendons and ligaments attach
  • Ganglion cyst—a swelling or tumor on a joint or tendon sheath
  • Tenosynovitis—inflammation of a fluid-filled sheath that surrounds a tendon
  • Trigger finger—a finger or thumb that locks when bent

Some people may not see the injury. But they may find it hard to do easy tasks. Over time, RMDs can cause short-term or lasting damage to muscles, nerves, tendons, and ligaments. RMDs can also affect people who do repetitive tasks outside of an office—such as an assembly line or sewing.

Many people think computer work is linked to carpel tunnel syndrome. However, this has not been found to be true so far.

The good news is that most people can get better and prevent reinjury. This will mean changing the way they do their work. Good posture, a good office chair, and using an can help prevent RMDs. Take short breaks from your workstation to stretch your arms, shoulders, and legs. From time to time take walks to refocus your body and mind.

Computer Vision Syndrome

Many office workers develop vision issues related to computer use. These include:

  • Eye strain and tired eyes
  • Eye irritation and redness
  • Blurred or double vision

These conditions are called computer vision syndrome (CVS). CVS may be caused by abnormalities on the surface of the eye or muscle spasms. They may also be caused by issues in the work environment. Examples are problems with lighting, glare, display quality, refresh rates, and radiation.

Many of these issues can be corrected with:

  • Proper lighting
  • Anti-glare filters for the computer screen
  • Putting the computer monitor in a better position
  • Regular work breaks

If your eyes feel strained, get up and take a walk. If you cannot walk away from your computer, stop what you are doing every 20 minutes. Look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This helps reduce eye strain. Lubricating eye drops and special computer glasses may also help.


Falls are one of the most common office accidents. Falls can result in serious injury, including strains, sprains, and broken bones. They can be the result of overreaching, tripping, or slipping. Falls are a major cause of time off work and disability.

Here are some steps to prevent falls:

  • Make sure all wires and cords are secured and out of any pathways.
  • Wear shoes that grip.
  • Close file or desk drawers when you are done using them.
  • Use a ladder to reach for objects. Do not use your chair.
  • Keep all areas well lit.
  • Clean any spills right away.
  • Report any ripped carpeting or flooring.

You spend a lot of time at work. Take time to make sure that your environment is safe so you can stay healthy.


National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke


Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety


Carpal tunnel syndrome information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: Accessed November 5, 2021.
Computer vision syndrome. American Optometric Association website. Available at: Accessed November 5, 2021.
Falls in the workplace. Centers for Disese Control and Prevention website. Available at: Accessed November 5, 2021.
Ganglion cysts. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed November 5, 2021.
Repetitive motion disorders information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: Accessed November 5, 2021.
Last reviewed November 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board
Last Updated: 11/5/2021

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