When it comes to chronic pain among office workers, few issues are more prevalent than back pain. But just because you deal with chronic discomfort, doesn’t mean you have to continue to live like this.
Common Causes of Back Pain at Work
If you’re experiencing chronic and/or frequent back pain stemming from your work in an office, Mayo Clinic suggests it’s likely caused by one of three common factors:
- Force. Too much physical exertion on the job – likely from lifting or moving heavy objects – can lead to back strains and other problems.
- Repetition.If you perform the same physical movements over and over again, the repetition can injure your back. This is especially common when the repetition involves a rotating or twisting of the spine.
- Inactivity. Just as too much activity can cause back pain, inactivity can contribute to pain as well. Poor posture and inadequate back support can weaken muscles over time and leave you with pain and discomfort.
In this article, we’re primarily focusing on back pain related to this third factor: inactivity. While it’s possible for an office desk worker to experience pain due to force or repetition, you’re most likely experiencing pain from sitting too much (and perhaps sitting improperly). By addressing the underlying problem, you can find freedom from discomfort.
4 Tips for Reducing Back Pain
The exact path forward is highly dependent on your unique circumstances – including age, strength, biological factors, and past medical history. However, the following tips are designed to help anyone fight through discomfort and find relief. Will you give them an honest try?
1. Adjust Your Workspace
Proper desk posture requires that your spine is upright, lower back supported, shoulders back, and feet flat on the ground. But as things currently stand, your workspace likely isn’t conducive to this setup. So you’ll need to optimize accordingly. Here are a few helpful tips:
- Push your hips as far back as they can go in your chair.
- Adjust the seat height so that your feet rest flat on the floor.
- Adjust the back of the chair to recline at a 100-110-degree angle.
- Adjust the height of your chair/desk so that your elbows are situated at a slightly open position (roughly 100 degrees).
- Position your keyboard directly in front of your body.
- Adjust your screen so that the top of the monitor is roughly two to three inches above eye level (when seated)
2. Invest in a Better Chair
The ergonomic tips mentioned above sound great, but they don’t mean a whole lot if you have a lousy office chair. If you’re going to spend money on anything to reduce your back pain, make it a better chair.
A good chair should be comfortable yet firm. It needs to support your lower back and allow for manipulation of seat height, rotation, arm height, etc. Do your research and be sure to read Amazon reviews to learn more about different features and how people use them. (This will also give you a better idea of how the chairs actually perform in real work settings over many months of use.)
3. Take Regular Breaks
Sitting might not be traumatic on your back over the short-term, but the longer you sit, the worse it gets. Your spine is made up of stacks of discs in between your vertebrae. As you sit, the pressure of gravity and the weight of your body actually diminishes the cushioning effect of these discs and leads to pain.
One way to avoid sitting-related pain is to take regular breaks. Stand up, go for a walk – do anything to take pressure off your back and get the blood flowing.
4. Use a Standing Desk
As we’ve mentioned, sitting for long periods of time isn’t good for your spine. With a standing desk – which simply raises and lowers – you’re able to go back and forth between sitting and standing. At the very least, you should try to stand for half an hour for every hour of seated work you perform. Over a typical workday, this means you should be standing for at least two or three hours. If you opt for a standing desk, you should also consider investing in a pair of shoe insoles for hard surfaces to make sure your posture is at its best.
Reclaim Your Freedom
Chronic back pain has a way of grabbing your life by the throat and choking out any joy that you might otherwise have. It’s constantly there and won’t retreat unless you fight back. But as you embrace proper posture, optimize your workspace, and adjust your daily workflow to account for smarter physical habits, you’ll find that relief is possible. Just don’t expect it to happen overnight. It’ll take days, weeks, and even months to push through and discover the other side.