Back Pain and the Workplace

Even if your only job function is to sit and stare at a computer screen for eight hours a day, your back or neck may be paying the price. Often, problems stem from a variety of bad habits. Long stretches of immobility, frequent or repetitive movements (even typing), lifting and carrying heavy loads, and working while fatigued may all be contributing to your woes. Now’s the time to do something about it and to prevent further injury.

Standing desks are the latest rage because apparently sitting can kill you. But just using a standing desk isn’t going to do much ergonomic help if you’re standing incorrectly. Follow this checklist to make sure your standing posture is doing your body good:

  • Keep your head up and sitting directly over your shoulders
  • Position your shoulders directly in line with your pelvis
  • Tighten your core abdominal muscles
  • Tuck in your butt muscles
  • Keep your feet slightly apart, with one foot slightly in front of the other
  • Bend your knees slightly and never lock them

If you haven’t yet been able to talk your boss into shelling out the money for a standing desk, you’re likely to be sitting for the majority of your day. Just as there’s a proper way to stand, there are right and wrong ways to sit. And doing it the wrong way can do a number on your back. These quick tips will have you sitting pretty – and pretty comfortably – in no time:

  • Adjust your office chair, computer, and desk to ensure proper posture
  • Sit back in the chair to take advantage of the lumbar support
  • Keep your head and neck erect to prevent slouching
  • Adjust your seat and arm rest so that your working surface is level with your elbows
  • Keep your knees level with your hips (your legs should form a 90-degree angle to the floor); use a phone book or small box if your legs don’t quite reach the floor
  • Take frequent stretching or walking breaks

Of course, the right office chair will help you on your way to achieving the perfect sitting posture. Take a look at the ten best office chairs as determined by Gear Patrol (and feel free to forward the link to your boss or office manager).

Your job may require you to lift heavy objects all day, or at least when you need to refill the water cooler. Improper lifting techniques are a sure-fire way to injure your back. You’ve heard all the techniques before, but they’re worth recommitting to memory:

  • Give yourself a wide base of support: place your feet shoulder-width apart with one foot slightly ahead of the other
  • Squat to lift, bending at hips and knees only (don’t bend your back)
  • Maintain proper posture: Look straight ahead, keep your back straight, puff your chest out, and throw your shoulders back
  • Lift the load slowly by straightening your hips and knees (again: not your back)
  • Don’t twist your torso as you lift
  • Hold the load as close to your body as possible
  • Use your feet to change directions (don’t twist your upper body)
  • Never lift a heavy object above shoulder level

Back and neck pain are all-too-common problems. Adopt these techniques and you’ll be standing, sitting, and lifting your way to a much happier and healthier you.

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