Who knew that working at a desk job could be as physically demanding as slinging a shovel or loading a truck? While the physical risks of those jobs are well documented, the risks of a desk job aren’t well advertised. But they are just as real.
Back pain is the most common ailment among working professionals, and the more you sit at a desk, the more damage you can do to your back and spine. Poor posture and incorrect body mechanics can lead to debilitating pain. But back health tips followed today can save you from serious damage later in life.
Back Health Tips for Specific Problems
Sitting for much of your working day wreaks havoc on your spine, even if you don’t feel the effects right away. Computer use commonly causes your shoulders to round, softening your back. To compensate, you move your neck forward, adding weight and stress to your shoulders. You also lose engagement with your glutes.
Over time, your thoracic spine, responsible for holding your diaphragm and safeguarding your lungs, stiffens up. Over an extended period, your neck adapts to this position. Poor posture becomes your new norm. Your low back weakens, which causes such problems as:
- Dull, aching pain. Try over-the-counter medication for pain relief. Hot/cold packs can also bring relief.
- Radiating or traveling pain. Back pain can sometimes travel to your buttocks, feet and legs. For back health tips, keep your feet flat on the floor, have a chair that supports the natural curve in your spine and walk around every hour. Movement increases the amount of fluid to your spine.
- Intensifying pain. You may feel worse after sitting for an extended period. Back health tips involve exercise. Do standing quad and hip flexor stretches to loosen tightened muscles that overcompensate for the weakness in your back.
- Difficulty walking after sitting. If you feel clumsy after sitting for an extended period, you may be experiencing sciatica. Back health tips to get relief include using ice packs interchanged with heat packs, over-the-counter medication and even surgery, if your condition is serious enough.
Back Ailments from Sitting
Any of these symptoms may be a sign of a back injury. Yes, you can actually injure your spine by sitting too much. Injuries include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease, for women
- Herniated or slipped disk
- Kidney stones
- Spinal stenosis
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Back Health Tips for Preventing Pain
Invest in an ergonomic work space. Even if it costs you more now, you can avoid much more costly — and painful — results in the future. What you need may depend on you and your situation, but consider:
- A comfortable desk chair that supports you in all the right places
- Computer screens that are slightly above eye level to keep your neck in a neutral position
- A standing or walking desk
- A keyboard, mouse and other accessories that you can use without stressing your wrists
- Coccyx (tailbone) seat cushion
- Lower lumbar support pad
Even if you’re not in pain yet, you can benefit from a preventative course of action, including an exam. A trained specialist can uncover any bad mechanics in your body, as well as any poor postural habits that can lead to problems down the road. Talk to your doctors at the Southeastern Spine Institute about other options that are right for you.