Avoiding Back Pain in the Office

In today’s digital world, people spend more than 10 hours a day in front of a screen. We’re often switching between a TV, computer, smartphone or tablet in our personal time and professional lives.

Screen time can soar if you work at a computer during the day—and let’s face it, most of us do. Sitting at a desk all day can eventually lead to pain or discomfort in your neck or back. Here are some tips to help you relieve back or neck pain if you work at a desk.

Motion is Magic

Moving is a key part of protecting your spine throughout the day. Go for a walk during a break and lunch–don’t be tempted to eat your lunch at your desk–get up and move!

There are many new gadgets available for purchase that can help improve posture or remind you to move. Such products encourage healthy posture by buzzing after an extended period of iPod or tablet use. There is no published data on this yet and it is not marketed as a medical device, but the idea seems promising! 

The alarm on your phone or computer can also serve as a great tool throughout your busy day. Aim to get up and move every half an hour at work. Whether you just stand and stretch or need a water refill, small breaks throughout the day can alleviate neck and back pain greatly.

Sit-Stand Desk

Back and neck pain is often attributed to a sedentary lifestyles. Changing positions frequently throughout the day is an important to addressing this pain. By allowing desk workers to easily change their position, sit-stand desks have become a workplace essential.

Sit-stand desks allow you to go from a standing position to a sitting position and back to sitting throughout the day. This simple movement enables your body to move and stretch, a natural inclination that promotes spine health.

Standing places less stress through the discs in your back as compared to sitting. But more importantly shifting positions also places less pressure on the spine and enhances blood flow throughout the body.

5 ergonomic tips for work

Even with a sit-stand desk and micro-walks throughout the day, sitting is an unavoidable part of office careers. Luckily, there are many ways to arrange your work station to make your 9 to 5 life healthier and more comfortable.

  • Setting up your screen: If your computer screen is set too high or low, this could contribute to shoulder or neck fatigue at the end of a long day. The top of the screen should be set at eye level; this way you do not have to consistently look up or down. Contrary to popular belief there is no right or wrong distance to place a screen away from the eyes, this is dependant on screen size, glasses and resolution of the screen. Have the screen where it ios comfortable to view the screen. Start with the screen an arms length away and adjust from there.
  • Ergonomic chair : Consider using a chair with a backrest that supports the curve of your lower (lumbar) back. Sit back in the chair as high as possible, allowing your feet to be on the floor. The hips should if possible be higher than the level of your knees, as this reduces disc pressure on your lower back. Use a footrest only if your feet can not touch the ground.
  • Avoid cell phone when answering emails: If you have a height adjustable desk, position it so your elbows when your arms are relaxed are at the level of the desk or 1-2 cm above the level of your desk. If your desk is not height adjustable, then adjust your chair so that your elbows are at the right height and use a footrest if your feet do not touch the ground.
  • Posture and keyboard techniques: Adjust your keyboard to a height where your elbows are bent approximately 90-100 degrees and your shoulders do not slump or elevate.
  • Computer Glasses: If you use progressive lenses in your glasses, a slight head tilt is needed for these glasses to function. This tilting action may be the cause of your fatigued neck. Consider asking your eye doctor for glasses that can be worn while at your desk.

Exercises at work to help neck or back pain

Trying to stretch a bit more discretely? Some highly effective stretches don’t require standing or moving around your office space. These simple movements can help alleviate your neck and back pain—all from the comfort of your own cubicle.

Finger Point:

  1. Stretch your left hand out in front of you, pointing fingers toward the floor, palm facing out.
  2. Use your right hand to increase the stretch, pulling your fingers down and toward the body.
  3. Repeat on the other side.

"Big Hug" Back Stretch:

  1. Hug your body, placing the right hand on your left shoulder and the left hand on your right shoulder.
  2. Breathe in and out, releasing the area between your shoulder blades.

Neck Retraction:

    1. Sit in a neutral position, holding your head in a normal resting position.
    2. Next, slowly glide your head backward, tucking your chin in until you have pulled your head and chin as far back as they will go. Keep your head level and do not tilt or nod your head.
    3. Hold for three to five seconds, then release. 
    4. Repeat 10 times.


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