Back Care for Office Workers
Our backs were not designed to spend long periods of time sitting at desks. Spending 6 to 8 a day in front of the computer can lead to shoulder, arm, hand and neck problems, as well as issues with balance and co-ordination. A recent study has found that over 45% of office workers experience neck pain. Other surveys have shown that back problems and pain are big contributors to lost productivity in the workplace.
Low back pain is one of the most common causes of disability among people of working age, and its impact on industry is enormous. It’s been reported that after headaches and colds, back pain is the third most common reason for taking time off work. Specifically, the work-related physical activities that are believed to be related to the onset of low back symptoms include lifting heavy weights, bending and twisting, and, of course, working in the same position for extended periods.
The good news is that postural issues and back pain caused by working at a desk can corrected and, in some cases, even reversed. Apart from visiting your Chiropractor regularly, here are some tips and tricks to ease your back pain.
Watch your posture, especially at work.
When at your desk, do you keep your back straight most of the time, or do you hunch over at an angle? Sitting hunched over for an extended period of time can cause the muscles on the front of your torso to shorten and your back muscles to become weak and stretched out. Over time, this imbalance from a continually slumped position can cause rounded shoulders and a forward neck posture, leading to chronic neck and back pain.
- Tip: Sit straight. Tighten the stomach muscles, roll your shoulders back and down, and try to keep your neck straight. With a bit of practice (and a few post-it notes reminding you), you will get into the habit of sitting with a good posture at your desk.
Get regular exercise that utilises all of your major muscle groups.
Even with the best posture at work, our bodies simply weren’t designed to sit all day. Getting half an hour or more of exercise everyday outside of work to keep your joints lubricated and muscles moving freely will help you avoid back pain and promote better health.
- Tip: It’s often hard to get the motivation to exercise after you’ve arrived home and settled in for the evening. Pack a bag with your exercise gear, and go straight after work on your way home. Getting into this routine means that you’ll regard exercise as another appointment in your day, and be more inclined to complete it everyday.
Eat a healthy diet full of fresh vegetables, fruit and lean meats provides your body with most of the nutrition you need to live a healthy, active life. Avoid refined grains and sugars – these foods contribute to inflammation and continued pain within the body.
- Tip: Can’t think of what to eat other than toast for breakfast, a sandwich at lunch, or rolls with dinner? Use your imagination! Read our Health Promoting Nutrition and Eating to Reduce Inflammation articles.
Get your daily dose of magnesium.
Besides being involved in over 300 enzymic reactions in the body, magnesium is needed by the body to release muscle contractions. Magnesium is also important for nerve function, too.
- Tip: Check out the Best Magnesium Muscle Relaxant section. These magnesium supplements will relieve aching, tired and cramping muscles within hours – not weeks.
Your office chair and desk should fit you and your duties.
Especially if you have to spend long periods of time behind your desk. Most people find that adjusting their work station using the following tips reduces their chances of developing discomfort or pain.
- The height of your chair should allow you to have your feet flat on the floor and your upper leg horizontal or slightly sloping down.
- The back rest of your chair should give you sufficient support, especially in your lower back. The back rest should not pinch into your shoulders.
- The height of your desk should be just below your elbows when you are seated with your elbows in a 90º angle.
- Tip: If you are using arm rests, make sure they do not hamper you in moving your chair close to your desk. You should be able to get close enough to the computer and keyboard without feeling like you are reaching or straining.
Take regular breaks.
Besides setting up your desk properly, one of the best ways to stay comfortable and prevent back pain is to get up regularly and move around. Aim to take a 1-2 minute break every half hour.
- Tip: Go for a quick walk when you get up, and grab a glass of water. Staying hydrated is an ideal way to prevent pain and maintain optimal health.
As a result of stress, your muscles become tense, and you are less likely to take a break and also pay less attention to your comfort. All this can increase your risks of developing discomfort and back pain. Relieve your stress by practicing deep breathing, exercising regularly and clearing your mind whenever possible.
- Tip: Try not to stress the small things. Something’s only worth stressing about it you can change it. If you can’t change it – don’t worry about it.
Take regular stretch breaks.
This is one of the most important things you can do for your health and for your back. Set a timer to remind you to take a stretch break every hour or two. Follow our basic stretch guide (free for you to download at the end of the article) for some easy stretches you can do at your desk).
- Tip: Stretching shouldn’t hurt, so don’t push yourself. Stretch only until you can feel a slight pull, then hold for a few seconds. Don’t hold for too long either – you don’t want to risk injury.
Avoid Nurofen or pain-killers.
Sure – they may stop the pain and inflammation for a few minutes, but apart from providing a long-list of dangerous side-effects like blood clotting and bleeding from the bowel, these over-the-counter drugs are only masking the symptoms. Use a natural anti-inflammatory instead. Thanks to scientific advances, these natural anti-inflammatories not only relieve the pain and inflammatory symptoms; they also address the source of the injury. Try Bioceuticals InflamEze Activ.
- Tip: Getting regular headaches? Make sure you look away from the screen every few minutes. If your instant reaction is to reach for an aspirin, think again. Drink a couple of glasses of water first. Most headaches are caused by dehydration, so replenishing your water levels should dispel most headaches rapidly.
FREE FOR SPINAL CENTRE MEMBERS!
The Office Worker’s Stretching Guide – Free Downloadable PDF.
This basic stretching guide is ideal for everyone – print it out and take it with you to work for an easy-to-perform and effective stretching routine! Click on the link below to download.
If you like this article be sure to visit the Spinal Centre website at www.thespinalcentre.com.au and view more content by Dr. Hooper and the Spinal Rehabilitation Team.
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