Office Ergonomics and Knee Pain

Office Ergonomics and Knee Pain

October 2, 2012

Knee pain is often associated with those who lead more active lifestyles, especially runners and cyclists; after all, one common affliction is called Runner’s Knee for a reason! However, just because you don’t get up at the crack of dawn to go for a jog every morning or devote time on the weekend to training for your next half-marathon doesn’t mean that knee pain can’t be a bother for you too. Because your knees carry so much of the body’s weight and are used so frequently, even people who lead relatively inactive lifestyles still need to take care of their knees. While simply sitting still too much can lead to knee pain and stiffness, staying in the wrong position for extended periods of time can be rough on the knees as well.

Common Causes of Knee Pain In The Office

In particular, office environments can often be hard on the knees. While you might not think it, sitting down all day can actually be a very stressful position to maintain, especially on your joints like those in your back and knees. There are a whole host of ways that office workers may find themselves dealing with knee pain, and here are a few of the most common:

  • Sitting for long periods of time. If your job calls for you to sit for more than an hour at a time (and most office jobs do), then you will probably experience knee pain due to inactivity. The muscles and tendons can become stiff and painful. Sitting in the wrong position for a long period of time can also cause pain by putting pressure on the kneecap.
  • Incorrect furniture or sitting position. If you are not using well-designed, ergonomic office furniture or your furniture is in the correct position, height or alignment, you may find yourself suffering from knee pain and stiffness from holding your body at an awkward position for extended periods of time. Certain positions are harder in the knees than others, and pain is most often caused by having your office chair set too low, or keeping your knees in a bent position too long..
  • Injuries caused by kneeling. This kind of knee pain is often colloquially called preacher’s knee or housemaid’s knee, and more technically is either a type of prepatellar bursitis and pretibial bursitis. This occurs when the small sacs of liquid that cushion the knee joint become irritated due to excessive kneeling. If you find yourself digging through files on your knees quite often, this can definitely be hard on your knees.

The Theatre Sign: How To tell If You Are Hard On Your Knees

Did you know there is an easy way to spot someone experiencing anterior knee pain in a crowd? It is called the “theatre sign,” as it’s an easy way to spot someone whose knee is causing them discomfort while sitting for a long time in a movie theatre. Someone experiencing knee pain will often stick their knee out into the aisle, straightening out the joint to take pressure off the kneecap and relieve their pain. Is there someone in your office who always has their leg stuck out in the aisle between cubicles? They probably experience knee pain! Are you the person who always has your leg stuck out in the aisle? It might be time to seek out a solution to the knee pain that is making you uncomfortable!

Treating and Preventing Knee Pain

Since most kinds of knee pain that afflict office workers are caused by some kind of inactivity, getting more active is the best way to correct it!

  • Make sure you get up and stretch at least once every single hour.
  • Adjust your chair, so you are not sitting in a low position most of the time.
  • Try taking a mild, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory before a long day at your desk, to prevent knee pain and swelling.
  • If you are prone to knee pain during the day, make sure you ice it at night and keep it elevated in the evenings. Propping your leg up on a cushion while you relax is very good for it.
  • Regularly perform stretches that are good for your overall knee health, such as stretches that work the hamstrings and quadriceps.


If your job keeps you at your desk for long periods of time, make sure that you take some time after work to get some physical activity and keep your muscles, tendons and joints in good working order. Even a short walk every day can do a world of good. Though office environments may not be conducive to getting all of the activity we should every day, there are lots of little things you can do to turn your sedentary lifestyle into a more active one.

Knee Pain from Inactivity?

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