Occupational back pain is incredibly common. It can affect most people when remaining sedentary or not moving from one position for long periods of time.
The most common presentations are: tightness, stiffness or pain through the neck, shoulders or lower back, but it can be felt anywhere along the spine from the head to the hips. In most cases it isn’t caused by anything serious and will usually improve over time. There are things you can do to improve it, but sometimes it can be persistent and keep coming back.
Common causes of back pain
The most common cause can be how you sit, or how little you move throughout the day. Most frequently this pain can be caused by:
- Slouching forward in your chair
- Holding your phone between your ear and your shoulder
- Sitting in one spot for too long
Tips to decrease aching
Here are some tips to help improve, reduce and ease your neck, shoulder or back ache.
- Stop looking down.
Adjust your computer screen height to avoid unnecessary strain of the neck and shoulders. Your screen should be high enough so the top is at your eye level. The same applies for your phone. Try to minimise the amount of time spent looking down at your phone.
- Sit within reach.
Keep your mouse and keyboard at the edge of your desk in order to keep alignment and postural positioning comfortable.
- Plant your feet.
Your feet should be firmly planted on the floor. If they can’t reach try using a footrest. It’s best to avoid crossing your legs while you sit too.
- Sit back in your chair.
You might have been told to sit up dead straight when you were younger. In theory that’s correct but it can lead to overloading and straining your back muscles, if you remain too vertical. Try tilting your backrest to 100-110 degrees – sit back and relax.
- Choose a proper chair.
Your chair doesn’t need to be expensive or fancy. But it should have some basic functions. Adjusting the height, backrest angle and seat depth are very important when considering ergonomics while sitting.
- Be mindful of your phone calls.
If you spend a lot of time during the day on phone calls, its best to avoid holding your phone to your shoulder. Consider using a headset or the speaker function.
- Take breaks and stretch.
Probably one of the most important aspects of avoiding pain is taking regularly breaks and moving. Movement is key. Get up for at least 5 minutes every hour. Go and get a drink, go to the toilet or just walk around the office.
- Sit to stand and stand to sit desks.
Sit-to-stand desks can be a great way to help with the above point. But you shouldn’t just stand all day, much like you shouldn’t sit all day. You should be sitting to standing every hour. Again, movement is key.
- Think about your commute.
Why not explore different ways of getting to and from work. Incidental movement can be a good way to help alleviate any tension you build up over the course of a workday. Take the stairs, get off a few train stops earlier and walk, ride a bike, skateboard or run to work.
- Get stronger.
One of the most common causes of tight muscles is that they are not strong enough. Pilates, yoga, swimming and strength training are excellent ways to stimulate those under-utilised muscles and reduce those persistent aches and pains.
- Do something about it.
Finally, seek professional help. Prioritising your health and well-being is a key way to ensure productivity in the workplace and reduce absenteeism. If you have an injury get it looked at.
Guy Gold & Associates provide Osteopathic consultations and treatments for all types of injuries and conditions. We can assist with preventive medicine and healthcare, as well as workstation advice and a thorough diagnosis and prognosis for your injuries or pain.