How to prevent back pain in the workplace
Image: TB Studio

How to prevent back pain in the workplace

5 Feb 2018

If you’re concerned about developing back pain due to working in a sedentary job, these suggestions may help preserve your physical health.

Office jobs certainly include some of the most hazard-free professions around, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways you can injure yourself at work.

Back pain is an extremely common ailment affecting workers. In 2016, musculoskeletal pain – including back and neck pain – accounted for 22pc of the 137m sick days taken in the UK.

Nilofer Merchant famously proclaimed in a 2013 TED talk that sitting is the new smoking and, since then, more research has been released indicating that sitting can have a deleterious effect on your health in general.

Sitting puts more pressure on your spine than standing. While sitting, your lower back is tasked with holding up all the weight from the top half of your body. This being said, sitting in front of a computer for extended periods is a necessary part of a lot of people’s working day. So, how can you minimise the risk?

Take regular breaks to stretch and walk around

Try to walk around for between three and five minutes every half hour.

You could even try doing some stretches – simple ones, like toe touches or just even stretching your arms out – to compound the effects. If you’re already suffering from lower back pain, these specific stretches to combat it could be worth looking into.

If you have to take a phone call, try doing so while pacing. Or, as Merchant advises, have a walking meeting.

Make sure not to hunch over while working

I think everyone intuitively understands that hunching over the computer is bad for them, but it’s easy to fall into the most natural and comfortable – albeit unhealthy – sitting position while you’re in the flow of things.

Ask your office manager about getting a lumbar support for your office chair. Also, try leaning back while you work as opposed to leaning forward, as this will allow the chair to bear the brunt of your weight as opposed to your lower back.

If you find that hunching is an enduring bad habit, try setting an alarm for every 20 minutes, reminding you to fix your posture. If you do it enough times, you will eventually eradicate the habit.

Consider a standing desk

A standing desk offers you the opportunity to alternate your position throughout the day.

While we wouldn’t necessarily recommend switching to standing entirely – the purported miraculous benefits of the standing desk are still being investigated, and there can be some health drawbacks to that, too – changing your body position is a good way to temporarily shift the weight elsewhere.

Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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