If you read our last post, then you are already familiar with chronic back pain, but for those that didn’t, chronic back pain can be described as back pain lasting for more than three months. It is a very common hindrance to office workers (and office productivity!).
How a worker sits on their chair can have a huge impact on the back. Slouching forward for long periods of time is definitely something to be avoided. When you lean forward in your chair for extended periods, not only do you crush the disks in your lower back, but you put an undue amount of pressure and strain on your neck and shoulders.
When sitting in an office chair, it is advisable to try and find a way to naturally lean back without feeling awkward. Office chairs should come equipped with lumbar support, a natural forward curve at belly button level that roughly matches the natural curve of the human spine. If you find it difficult to sit back, or if your chair does not have the curve, a rolled up towel or a pillow should do the trick.
Most office chairs these days are adjustable. It is recommended that you adjust the height so that you can keep your feet flat on the floor, with your knees at a 90-degree angle. If your office doesn’t have adjustable chairs, you can rest your feet on a footrest of some kind to achieve the same effect. Be sure to remind your office manager of all the back pain related sick days we discussed in the last article – maybe he or she will order some adjustable chairs for the next fiscal.
Like your knees, your arms should be at a 90-degree angle. This helps keep your shoulders low, which alleviates pressure from the upper back.
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Your monitor should be about an arms length away at eye level, or just below. This encourages you to sit back, and relieves the strain on your back and neck that occurs when you slouch forward. If you find yourself squinting at the monitor from this position, try adjusting the lights.
Most offices need telephones to function these days, but did you know that how you hold your phone can impact your back? When you tuck your phone between your head and neck you free up your hands…but also hurt your back, neck and shoulders.
The simplest way of avoiding this type of discomfort is by transition to a headset, or by using speakerphone. This will allow you to keep your hands free for note taking or computer input, but won’t put undue stress on your back.
The number one reason for office back pain, which will be explored further in our next article, is inactivity. People were made to be active, and a work day spent sitting or standing in one place can be devastating to your body. Consider taking short breaks throughout the day or standing up at your work space when possible.