Back Pain at Work: How to Deal with It

People who work in offices are more likely to suffer chronic back pain than people who have a physically demanding job. Hunching over a computer is a leading reason why you end up with crippling back pain. Holding your telephone between your ear and your shoulder, lack of movement during the work day, lifting or moving heavy objects are some other causes of back pain.

How your body is positioned throughout the day is a major contributor to back and neck pain. A few simple changes in the way you work can make your pain vanish. Here are some tips you can use to reduce back pain at work:

Customize your chair and desk
By law, workstation chairs must be stable. The standard office chair has five legs in a star shape. The seat height must be adjustable, and the back rest must be adjustable in height and tilt. Ideally, the back rest should move independently of the seat to allow a comfortable position. Adjust the height of your chair so you can keep your feet flat on the floor and your knees at 90-degree angles. You can also rest your feet on a prop, like a footrest or even a phone book, for extra support. The basic rule is to plant your feet on the floor and support your back.

Keep your head up
If you have to work at a desk for longer periods of time, it would be best if you could align your office setup so that your shoulders and hear are in a straight line, avoid straining forward. Place your mouse right next to your keyboard so you don’t overreach or twist your shoulder, arm, or wrist when clicking it.

Take regular breaks
People are made to move. Sitting (or even standing) in one position for an 8 hour workday can wreak havoc on your body. Take short breaks once every hour to use the restroom, get a glass of water, visit the copy machine or just stretch. Sitting for long periods of time can weaken the muscles in your back. Stretching for just 60 seconds is enough to offset these negative effects of sitting.

Optimize your phone calls
Tucking the phone between your shoulder and ear while you multitask is an instinctive move -- and it’s murder on your neck. It causes strain to your neck and shoulders. Use a headset or speakerphone for any conversation that lasts more than five minutes. Hold the phone in your hand and switch between your right and left sides throughout the conversation.

Lift safely
One of the biggest causes of back injury, especially at work, is lifting or handling objects incorrectly. Learning and following the correct method for lifting and handling objects can help prevent back pain.

Breathe from your belly
On each inhale, think about drawing your navel toward your spine; that engages the core muscles and supports the upper body.

Don't cross your legs
Sitting cross-legged makes it difficult to keep your spine straight and shoulders squared, and you risk overstretching the muscles around the pelvis, upping your risk of varicose veins by interrupting blood flow, which look dark blue on your skin. So uncross and relax.

In general, the best treatment for back pain is to stay active and, if necessary, use painkillers. You may feel like going to bed, but this won't help and could make it worse. The longer you're immobile, the weaker your back muscles will become, and the more they will hurt in the long term.


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