How to Survive a Desk Job with Chronic Back Pain
For employees spending long days at work in front of a computer, there’s always the possibility of experiencing occasional spine-related aches and pains. This is so because they often remain in the same position for hours at a time, which is debilitating to the backbone and its supporting muscles and discs. Taking steps to alleviate one’s spine can make long, latent work days a bit more manageable.
Take Breaks to Get Up and Stretch
There will always be deadlines that need meeting and reports that need completing. Even so, it’s just as important for workers to avoid issues with back pain by taking periodic breaks. Ideally, this should include walking around and stretching to ease muscle tension and increase circulation of beneficial nutrients to tissues in and around the spine. Workers should strive to:
- Get up at least every 50-60 minutes or so
- Take 10-15 minute breaks to move around and stretch
- Avoid sitting for more than 100 minutes straight (roughly an hour and a half)
Use Comfortable, Supportive Chairs
Optimal support is the key to minimizing the risk of lower back pain from sitting. Ergonomically designed office chairs are specially designed to better support the natural curvature of the spine than standard chairs, making them a commonly recommended choice. Ball chairs are an appealing option for some workers as well. While they will increase core strength and improve posture, not all users find them comfortable.
Sitting in the same position for too long can place stress on lower back muscles that may eventually contribute to inflammation. This could irritate nearby nerves like the sciatic nerve, which sometimes results in pain in the thighs, buttocks, hips, or legs. One way for workers to avoid this is by making an effort to shift positions when they cannot take a break. Some other options worth considering include:
- Doing tasks standing up when possible, such as taking long phone calls.
- Using an adjustable desk that you can adapt for sitting and standing positions.
- Opting for a standing workstation, if it makes sense to do so.
Maintain Spinal Alignment with Workspace Set-Up
The way a workspace is set up can also determine whether soft tissue, joints, and bones in the neck or lower spine will be affected. This means keeping computer monitors eye level and directly in front of the worker to avoid excessive neck turns and twists and maintain spinal alignment. A proper chair height can be achieved by:
- Ensuring that feet are flat on the floor
- Keeping knees at a 90-degree angle
- Adjusting the highest point of the seat to just below the kneecap
Most instances of back pain are due to some type of muscle strain. Making an effort to get up and move as much as possible, improve posture, and embrace healthy eating habits can minimize or eliminate this type of discomfort. For anyone experiencing lingering back pain or worsening symptoms that continue during non-working hours, seek medical attention sooner rather than later. Spine experts at Marc Cohen Spine Institute can make you aware of treatment options and pursue pain relief suggestions. Schedule an appointment at one of our New Jersey locations today.