5 tips for preventing back pain with a desk job
Even before the pandemic back pain was common among desk workers, with studies showing it occurs in 23% to 38% of them in any given year. And the problem seems to be worsening with working from home. One recent study found 41.2% of home-based workers reported experiencing low back pain (LBP). But don’t worry – this doesn’t mean you’re doomed to LBP if you work at a desk! Here are five simple ways to care for your back in your office.
1. Move more for less discomfort
Muscles and joints are made to move, not stay in one position for long periods. Make a habit of changing positions regularly – at least every half hour. Try to get up and take a short walk if you can. Even switching to a different chair can help. Options at home include:
- investing in a sit-to stand desk
- walk and talk, get up and move around while on a mobile phone call
- sitting on a gym ball for a time.
2. Position yourself for pain-free work
Creating an ergonomic home office gives you the best chance of working comfortably. For an ergonomic desk set up, ensure that your:
- chair has adequate lumbar support
- feet are flat on the floor
- knees are level with your hips (or slightly below)
- monitor is about an arm’s length away
- wrists are flat as you use the keyboard (not angled upwards)
- eye level is about 5cm below the top of your monitor
- shoulders are relaxed.
Image source: Safe Work Australia
3. Foster great posture
Your spine has natural curves and it’s important to maintain these when sitting. A quality office chair helps, or you can use a rolled-up towel or lumbar roll to support your lower back.
Here’s an easy exercise to loosen your spine and correct your sitting posture:
- Slump over, rounding out your spine and poking your head forward, like a turtle poking its head out.
- Now sit as straight as you can, arching your lower back, drawing back your shoulder blades and pulling your chin in.
- Repeat five times.
- After the last repetition, relax about 10 to 20% from the extreme upright position and you should be in a good sitting posture.
4. Stretch for success
Keep your joints and muscles mobile with these easy stretches:
- Drop your ear to one shoulder until you feel a pull on the opposite side of your neck. Repeat to the other side.
- Draw your shoulder blades together at the back.
- Place your hands behind your head and interlock your fingers. Stretch backwards over the top of your chair, pushing your elbows back.
- Stand up, place your hands on your hips and bend backward, arching your lower back.
Hold each position 10-20 seconds and never force into discomfort. Talk to a physio if you have any trouble with these exercises.
5. Add exercise to your routine
Capitalise on working from home and take breaks to exercise. You don’t have to become a gym junkie – 10-15 minutes of walking, stretches, yoga, or core exercises add up to a healthier, more productive you.
How The Brisbane Spine Clinic can help
Regardless of how well you look after yourself, back pain can become a problem. Our skilled, experienced physiotherapists are here to get you back on track. We will assess your symptoms, develop a tailored management plan, and provide hands-on therapy and personalised advice to help you get comfortably back to work as quickly as possible.