Most of us will have back pain at some point in our lives. In the U.K. research has suggested that back pain is the second most common cause of long-term sickness in that country after stress.
Back pain and neck pain can be a natural result of prolonged sitting at work. This is particularly the case with the increased use of computers at work. Working at a computer in and of itself is not a problem; but it is the long hours, often uninterrupted, that many people spend in front of their computers that start to cause pain and discomfort because of the resulting poor posture.
Bad posture can cause headaches, excessive tension in the neck, shoulders, upper, mid and lower back, and even tension into the arms, hips and legs All of the above cause increased fatigue to the muscles and ligaments especially those supporting the back and can eventually lead to tissue injury and spinal joint dysfunction.
Correct ergonomics is an important factor to reducing problems caused by prolonged computer use. Ergonomics is about making things fit comfortably and more efficiently. Within the work context, ergonomics is most commonly applied to one’s work station.
Work station factors that can affect your back include:
– seating posture
– computer screen position
– chair height
– keyboard position
– mouse position
– desk equipment layout
Tips for good/ideal computer posture include:
– Using an adjustable seat so you can check its height
– Using a chair that has good lumbar (lower back) support
– Having the screen about arms-length away from you
– The top of screen should be no higher than your eyes
– Your wrists should not be at an angle for either keyboard or mouse
– Having a large enough desk that allows your forearms to rest on it when using the computer
Image by permission from www.PhysioFusion.com.au
Here are a few more tips for a healthy back at work:
– Take regular breaks from your desk at work
– Vary your activities during the day
– Sit up straight
– Stay active/exercise regularly
Below are a couple of simple yet effective exercises that can be done at work throughout the working day to help maintain the health of your back and spinal joints.
The first is a very good exercise for the muscles and joints in the neck and upper back; it’s called the ‘Neck Retraction’ or ‘Chin Tuck’. This is performed by looking straight ahead and then pulling your head straight back in, like trying to give yourself a double chin.
The second exercise is for the lower back. This involves taking time to stand up from time to time and with your hands on your hips gently extending backwards. This helps the spine regain its normal curve after prolonged sitting.
And, finally, here are also a few pointers on lifting or handling objects at work safely to avoid a back injury at work:
– keep the load close to your waist
– keep your back as straight as possible, bend from the hips
– avoid twisting or leaning sideways
– know your limits
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