How to prevent back pain in the office

While the common cold may be the undisputed champion in the work absence stakes, back pain isn't far behind with musculoskeletal conditions leading to 31 million working days being lost last year. It's hardly any wonder though when we consider that the number of Quasimodo-esque employees who are hunched over their keyboards is increasingly on the rise.

Office workers are the most likely to suffer from back pain with the risk of developing a long term chronic condition being as high as the chances that you're going to have to repeatedly answer that same dreaded question on a monday morning; so, how was your weekend anyway? Regardless of your job though, just a few slight changes to you daily routine can improve your posture and help you prevent back pain at the office.

"Sit up straight"

It may have an essence of Miss Trunchbull about it but sitting upright as opposed to being slumped over at your desk will help take the pressure off your lumbar spine. This lower back area takes the brunt of your bad sitting habits and is where most people will feel the implications. Keeping a straight posture with your lower back and shoulders against the backrest of the chair, with feet planted firmly on the floor, will stretch your back and relieve unwelcome discomfort.

Desk organisation

How the objects on your desk are positioned can have a surprising impact on your overall spinal health. Your monitor, for instance, should be at eye level when you're sat straight and having to stoop or hunch slightly will increase the pressure at the top of spine and in the shoulders. Sat in the same position, you keyboard should be arms distance away, as should your mouse, allowing forearms to be placed firmly on the desk. This will encourage you to sit correctly and generate good posture.

Keep moving

The general rule of thumb is that you should get up and away from the computer every 40 mins or so. This doesn't mean that as soon as the clock strikes 9:40am you make a bolt for the exit. There are ways you can steal a few minutes away from your chair though, be it to get a drink, do some filing or talk to a colleague instead of sending that email all but five metres across the room. Lack of movement can cause unwanted strain and tension in the back as well as restricting circulation and slowing metabolism. Little but often forms of movement is far more beneficial than longer forms at less frequency.

Enjoy your job

Although this very much sits within the camps of you either like it or you don't, your attitude towards your job is said to affect the likelihood of workers suffering from lower back pain. Those who are generally unhappy with their job are more likely to suffer from pain than those who are content, so trying to remember why it is you wanted the role in the first place might improve your outlook and in turn your ache. Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety can also give rise to chronic pain and you can read how to cope with these conditions in the workplace here.

Whilst back pain can be a nuisance at times, it generally isn't serious and can be prevented. For office workers, the day to day routine coupled with limited movement is the main cause for discomfort, but following the simple steps above will relieve the strain at your desk and help prevent chronic back pain, both short term and long term.

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