If you have a desk job, you’re at an increased risk of experiencing back pain. You may even be at a higher risk than people with physically demanding jobs. In fact, 80 percent of Americans experience back pain at some point in their lives, many from improper sitting techniques and poor ergonomics.
Back pain is one of the most common reasons people take off time from their jobs to see a doctor. And when pain is more than just a passing discomfort, you need to take that time off to see your back specialist at the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI).
Be Proactive and Protect Your Back
If you work at a desk, you can take actions both in and out of the office to protect your back. Here are the top seven things you can start doing right now to avoid future pain:
- Exercise your core two to three times each week. Your core includes your abdominal, back and pelvis muscles. While there are dozens of core exercises available to protect your back, the most common are variations of the plank, sit-up, bridge and crunch. Ask your trainer or physical therapist for the proper technique for each.
- Make sure your office situation is ergonomic. Ergonomics is the science of optimizing products for human use. In an office environment, ergonomics includes everything from the height of your desk and chair to the positioning of your keyboard, phone and monitor. When it comes to ergonomics, a good rule of thumb is if it looks or feels awkward, do something about it.
- Protect your back by investing in a good office chair. You probably spend a third of your day in that chair, so make sure it feels comfortable. Your office chair height should be adjusted so your feet are flat on the floor or on a footrest, and your thighs are parallel to the floor. If you have armrests, use them. Your arms should lightly rest on them while your shoulders are relaxed. Many office chairs include some type of lumbar support. Having no or inadequate lumbar support puts excess pressure on your spine.
- Consider a standing desk. Desks that you stand at rather than sit behind come and go in popularity, but they’re actually a good option for keeping your back healthy. Before you make the investment, however, ask a coworker who has one if you can try it out for a day.
- Sit up straight. Good posture is not simply an old wives’ tale. If you tend to slouch forward or lean back at your desk, you’re likely putting your spine out of alignment. Place your monitor at eye level to improve your posture while sitting and keep reminders nearby about maintaining a straight back.
- Take periodic breaks. Get up every now and then to stretch your entire body. While standing, reach for the ceiling, then touch your toes and repeat. Just a minute or two stretching each hour can do wonders to protect your back.
- Take a walk when you’re done. After a long day of working in the office, try to resist the urge of going home and sitting again. You’ve just been sitting for eight or nine hours, not including your commute. By standing, walking, or even lying down on your stomach, you provide your spine with a change of position.
While these seven tips don’t guarantee that you’ll avoid future back issues, they do help. If you spend your day working at a desk, doing these seven things goes a long way to protect your back. There are many causes of back pain, so don’t take chances. Talk to your doctors at SSI when in doubt.