Sitting, typing, making phone calls, eating lunch, sitting in meetings. That’s basically what many of our workdays look like. And to our bodies, having each day packed with such stone-frozen ‘activities’ can be hazardous. The good news is that even a little bit of proactivity can help you shake off the potentially detrimental effects of sitting.
How sitting affects the back
There is a complex group of muscles around the torso that allow us to bend, twist, extend, and flex our bodies. When sitting at a desk for a prolonged period of time, people tend to slouch over the keyboard…effectively lengthening the ligaments in the back, and causing strain on the muscles and structures around the spinal column.
In the short term, sitting for prolonged periods can lead to soft tissue (muscle) pain, poor posture, neck and shoulder pain, and occasionally sciatica. If not managed properly, this can lead to chronic pain.
Steps to reducing back pain in the workplace
So, what can you do to reduce or even eliminate back pain while you’re at work? Obviously, it’d be much easier if we could all stand and move during the workday to reduce stress on the lower back, neck and shoulders…but since many of our jobs require us to be at a computer for the majority of the day, it’s important to know how to improve the way we treat our backs at work.
1) Get a good chair
One of the first things you can do to help with back pain is to get a good chair. There are plenty of ergonomic chairs to choose from which can help improve your posture. However, it is important to get your ergonomic chair sized appropriately. Not only do you need to adjust the chair to your body, you should also have it complement your workstation; eyes should be level and forward, shoulders should not be hunched, lower back should be supported, and your arms should be at a 90-degree angle at your side.
2) Get active
Regardless of what kind of chair you sit in or how ergonomically attuned your desk is to your needs, nothing beats getting up and moving. If this turns out to be a struggle or you end up forgetting to take brakes, set a timer and get up and take a quick walk around your office once every half hour for a few minutes. There are a number of apps that are designed to remind you when to take a break such as TomatoTimer, BreakTimer and Awareness.
3) Sit on a Pilates ball
You can also consider using something like a Pilates ball (aka ‘stability ball’) in place of a chair for part of the day. Granted, you are still in a seated position while doing your work but the Pilates ball provides no back support…effectively making you use the muscles in your torso to stay upright and balanced on the ball.
4) AposTherapy® for back pain relief
In case you already suffer from back issues related to sitting, you can address them through treatments such as physical therapy and exercise. Additionally, AposTherapy® can be considered.
A few other suggestions for workplace wellness
A few more ways that you can improve and protect your back health while at work include: taking stretch breaks, getting a standing desk and taking a walk outside with your co-workers. And not only will this help relieve any aches, but it can also improve your mental clarity and boost mood – all things important in the workplace!