Do you sit at a desk all day? Does your back hurt? If so, you’re not alone. Back pain is the second most common work-related disability, with Americans spending over $50 billion a year on treatment. It’s also the second most common reason why people miss work (the first being the common cold).
Save your vacation time for when you’re actually on vacation, not when you’re dealing with chronic back pain. Here are a few easy tips to help you sit up straight and avoid back pain at work.
Keep Your Head Up
If you often find yourself hunching over your desk or squinting to read your coworker’s latest spreadsheet because the screen is too far away, you may need to readjust your workspace. Making sure you keep your head straight will help take the strain off your neck, which in turn helps take the strain off your back.
The key to having an ergonomically sound workspace is minimizing awkward movement as much as possible, especially since you’re probably going to be in the same position for a while.
Rearrange your workspace by:
- Adjusting your desk to align with your elbows. Lowering or raising your arms too much can fatigue your shoulders, which will make your back work more. A good rule of thumb is keeping your desk at elbow height.
- Placing your keyboard and mouse within arm’s reach. We don’t want you straining your shoulders to click on that link. Keeping your keyboard and mouse close will make it easier on your arms. Also, if you’re finding typing uncomfortable, think about investing in an ergonomic keyboard.
- Repositioning your monitor to make sure the top of your screen is eye level. The key to a healthy back is making your workspace as comfortable as possible, so try to make sure your computer screen is at the right level.
How comfortable is your office chair? Do you find yourself moving around a lot, or are your feet firmly planted throughout the day? Make sure your feet are flat on the ground, and try not to cross your legs. Sitting cross-legged can actually put more pressure on your spine, and constantly lifting your feet off the ground can also aggravate your lower back.
It’s important to keep your feet flat and shoulder-width apart. Leaning too far forward or too far back can cause unwanted stress on your joints, so make sure you’re able to sit comfortably and that your spine has enough support.
Walk It Off
A study published in Huffington Post found that 65 percent of office workers eat lunch at their desk. While the study goes on to mention how your lunch habits have a dramatic impact on your day-to-day life, they fail to mention how sitting all day can affect your back.
Lunch breaks are good for both your physical and mental health, as eating at your desk has shown to decrease creativity and increase your stress levels. It’s also not good for your back.
It’s important to take constant breaks. I actually make it a habit to get up and walk around every hour or two. Getting up and stretching for at least 60 seconds every 2 hours can help relax your back muscles and loosen some of the tension you may have accumulated throughout the day.
Put Down the Phone
Believe it or not, how you talk on the phone can also contribute to back pain. A lot of people (including me) have a habit of placing the phone between their head and shoulder so they can use their hands while they talk. Unfortunately, this awkward phone placement can do a number on your neck, which can lead to lower back pain.
Instead of placing the phone between your neck and shoulders, use a headset. Think of it like this: if you know a call is going to last more than five minutes, use a headset or call them on speaker phone.
Making your office work area more conducive to easy accessibility will help decrease back pain in the office. In addition, make it a priority to take breaks and stretch when needed.
Doug Johnson, PA | North American Spine
Doug Johnson helped create North American Spine and manages all medical staff, in addition to training physicians in proper AccuraScope procedure techniques.