The list of typical occupations that put you at risk of injury: construction worker, law enforcement officer, and... office workers? It might be unexpected, but life behind a desk can be dangerous. The sedentary lifestyle of office workers can wreak havoc on the spine, causing pain that can radiate from the neck down to the hips. When pain strikes at your desk, learn how you can handle it.
Why Does Office Work Cause Back Pain?
While it may not seem inherently dangerous, office work frequently is the leading culprit of back pain. When working at an office desk, a staggering number of individuals are repeatedly practicing poor posture, awkward seating positions, and repetitive motions, such as reaching for a keyboard or nestling a phone between their shoulder and ear.
Spending 8 or more hours per day in a workstation which has not been adapted to your body's unique characteristics or the day's necessities can greatly impact the body's musculoskeletal system. When these components are damaged, it is known as a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD). Examples of MSDs include:
- Rotator cuff injuries (shoulder pain)
- Muscle strains and sprains
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Low back injuries
Understanding the Importance of Ergonomics
Ergonomics measures the efficiency of workers in their work environment. Currently, office workers are manipulating their bodies improperly and uncomfortably in order to fit their work environment. According to ergonomics, it should be the work environment that is manipulated in order to fit a person's unique needs.
Without proper ergonomics in place, office workers overexert their bodies daily. This constant exertion on the musculoskeletal system can cause pain that radiates throughout the entire body, however, neck and back pain in office workers is typically a warning sign of poor ergonomics and poor posture.
Let's take a look at what can be done to prevent it.
Tips for Handling Back Pain at Work
When experiencing most injuries, your body attempts to let you know something is wrong. This is when pain, soreness, and fatigue set in. However, instead of addressing the problem in the workplace, most office workers make an effort to alleviate pain without altering their current surroundings.
If you're handling back pain at work, the first step is to make a change in your workspace. From your environment to the way your body adapts, check out these tips for handling back pain at work.
1. Keep the Body Aligned in Your Chair
One of the leading causes of back and neck pain is a misaligned spine. When sitting in an office chair, resist the urge to slouch or curl up. Instead, sit up straight. Keep the ears, shoulders, and hips, in one vertical line. Be aware of postures or positions that awkwardly contort the body, such as crossing the legs unevenly while sitting, leaning sideways to rest against an armrest or desk, and hunching the shoulders forward.
However, alignment goes hand-in-hand with your office chair. What is the best office chair for back pain? The verdict is still out, but many suffering from constant back pain at work have benefited from sitting on a balance ball in lieu of a chair. In this seating position, the pelvis is rocked gently forward, opening up the lower back and shifting the shoulders back.
Other top options for the best office chair for back pain include:
- TOPSKY Mesh Computer Office Chair
- Serta Air Health and Wellness Executive Office Chair
- BestOffice Home Office Chair Desk Ergonomic
- Ergonomic Mesh Computer Office Desk Chair
2. Get Up and Move
The National Institutes of Health estimates that American adults are spending upwards of eight hours a day sitting. If you're an office worker that's spending eight or more hours a day at a 90-degree angle, get up and move. Taking a walk to the break room, standing to stretch, and practicing some back pain exercises are all key to keeping your blood pumping and pain at bay.
If you have a standing desk, rotate between standing and sitting periodically. If you're at a sitting desk only, be sure to stretch your bones and muscles at least twice a day. Back pain exercises that are both subtle and effective enough to complete at your desk include:
- Seated Spinal Rotation: Cross your arms over your chest and grab your shoulders. Rotate your upper body from the waist, twisting gently from left to right as far you can comfortably. You'll feel a slight tension on both sides of the lower back as it stretches.
- Seated Back Extensions: Sit straight with your feet together on the floor. Place the palms of your hands onto the small of your back. Lean back over your hands, and feel the gentle stretch of the lower back.
- Posterior Shoulder Stretch: Hold one arm across your body and pull your elbow into your chest. You will feel a gentle stretch in the shoulder. Repeat for both arms.
3. Wear Supportive Footwear
While high heels and polished dress shoes are appropriate office wear, they're definitely not the most supportive for your back. If your job calls for more fancy footwear, be sure to use cushioned inserts to provide arch support. Keeping your feet well balanced will decrease the pressure on your lower back.
Likewise, consider keeping a high-quality pair of supportive flats at your desk. Simply pop them on for the duration of your day, and slip back into your more corporate footwear if a business meeting or team lunch arises.
4. Personalize Your Space with Ergonomic Props
Having the best office chair for back pain will definitely come in handy, but so will ergonomic accessories such as neck support and lower back support. Keeping pain managed all comes back to your posture, and these ergonomic props can help make this process easy and comfortable.
- 100% Pure Memory Foam Seat Cushion: U-shaped memory foam seat cushions help to relieve lower back and sciatic back pain, while also making it easier to find a comfortable seating position.
- Lumbar Support Back Pillow: This chiropractor-recommended breathable mesh pillow is ideal for posture support and lower back pain relief.
- Lumbar Support Back Cushion: This full-size support pillow will cushion the lower back and provide relief for sore muscles located in the mid-back and shoulders. Placed on top of an office chair designed for back pain, this cushion helps to relieve strain, fatigue, and soreness.
5. Bring Soothing Accessories
Last but not least, you want to be as comfortable as possible at work. So, try bringing in some comforts from home. For example, try a heating pad. The soothing warmth will mimic the relief found in a hot bath or warm shower and is a discreet method of soothing back pain.
If you work in a scent-accepting office, try essential oils as well. While these oils can be diffused to help the mood, they can also be applied topically to localized pain to help alleviate inflammation and discomfort.
Are South Florida Office Workers Suffering?
If you're an office worker in South Florida, it's likely that either you or your coworkers are actively suffering from back or neck pain due to poor office ergonomics and poor posture. If it seems like your whole office is suffering, you're not alone.
No matter where you are, there's a ChiroCare of Florida office near you. If you or someone you work with has been suffering back pain due to office work, we urge you to act now. Speak with one of our knowledgeable chiropractors about postural correction, ergonomic workspaces, and how to effectively alleviate pain.
By keeping your spine aligned, working to remove any blockages imposed by poor ergonomics, and working with you to correct your posture, your ChiroCare of Florida chiropractor can help make your desk job feel like the best job. Contact us today to get started.