As a chiropractic clinic, we see so many patients who suffer from back pain and discomfort as a result of working in an office space. In fact, it seems to be the perfect environment to develop back problems, among other things. And if you’re here reading this, chances are your back is already starting to feel the burn. Thankfully, it’s not too late to make a change!
Sitting for prolonged periods, poor posture, and repetitive movements such as typing with bad form can all lead to health issues, including back pain, repetitive stress injuries and more. To keep you in tip-typing condition, here are steps you can take to minimise the damage to your back when working at home or in the office.
Invest in an ergonomic chair
An ergonomic chair is designed to support your back and promote good posture. Look for a chair that has adjustable height, lumbar support, and armrests. When sitting, your feet should be flat on the floor, and your knees should be level with your hips. Make sure the chair is adjusted to the correct height so that your computer screen is at eye level.
Practice good posture
Slouching or hunching over your desk can put extra strain on your back muscles. Instead, sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed and your feet flat on the floor. Keep your computer screen at eye level, and avoid leaning forward or twisting your neck to see the screen.
Connecting your posture checks to something else can help.
Pick something that happens regularly, such as checking your messages or emails, talking to a colleague, or getting a snack or drink. Every time you do this, take the time to check your posture as well. After a while, it will become automatic and you’ll regularly check your posture without having to think about it.
Use a headset
If you spend a lot of time on the phone, consider using a headset. Holding the phone between your ear and shoulder can cause neck and upper back pain. Good options include wired or wireless earbuds if you use a computer, or a specially designed headset for your office phones.
If you have the privilege of your own office or you work from a home office, answering calls on loudspeaker may help as well.
Stretching can help to relieve tension in your back muscles and improve flexibility. It also keeps the blood flowing to your muscles.
Take a few minutes each day to stretch your back, neck, and shoulders. Try simple exercises like shoulder rolls or neck stretches.
Here are some others you can try in the office:
Stand up and bend over to touch your toes. Hold for a few seconds before standing back up.
Put your hands on your hips, arch your back away from the chair, and hold.
Raise both arms above your head, grab one elbow and pull it behind your head to the other side of your body. Repeat with the other arm.
Use a standing desk
Humans weren’t made to sit for long periods of time, especially in front of computers. If possible, consider using a standing desk. After all, the best way to avoid back pain when sitting is to not sit at all!
Standing can help to reduce the strain on your back and improve circulation. They’re also a great incentive to walk around, stretch, and keep yourself moving. Just make sure that you adjust the desk to the correct height so that your arms and screen are at a comfortable level.
Adjust your chair for better posture
If you don’t have a standing desk or can’t get one, adjusting your chair to fit is the next best thing. Most office chairs are designed to be adjustable, so take a few minutes to make sure it fits your height and weight requirements.
Your bottom should be close to the back of the chair and lumbar support (if you have one) should be against the hollow of your lower back. The armrests should be close to your sides, and your back should be straight.
If you’ve adjusted it correctly, it should gently move you into an upright position when sitting. You shouldn’t feel forced or cramped, and if you do you may need to tone it back a bit. But ultimately it should guide you to better sitting posture. Just be sure not to slouch!
Adjust your computer screen height
One of the easiest ways to improve your posture and reduce back pain is to raise the height of your computer screen. If your screen is too low, you’re always looking down and craning your neck. It also makes it very easy to slouch without realising it.
Your computer screen should be at eye height when sitting straight, with the centre of the screen level with your eyes. This ensures you maintain good posture while using your computer, as you don’t have to move to view your screen properly.
If you use a laptop for work, a computer stand and detached mouse and keyboard, or a secondary screen at eye height can have the same effect.
Take time for regular breaks
A 10-minute break every 30, 60 or 90 minutes can go a long way not just for your physical health, but your mental health as well. Go for a walk, stretch, talk to your coworkers. Just get away for your screen for a little to let your body and mind unwind, and they’ll thank you in the long run!
Working in an office doesn’t have to be a pain in the back. By following these tips, you can minimise the damage to your back and stay comfortable and pain-free at work.
If you are experiencing back pain, talk to your chiropractor about ways to manage your symptoms and prevent further damage.
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