Wondering how to prevent back pain at work?
Almost 65 million Americans say they have experienced a recent episode of back pain. Roughly 8% of adults suffer from chronic, ongoing back pain, which limits their everyday activities. Back pain is also one of the most costly health conditions in the US.
Roughly $20 million is spent every year on the management of back pain. It's also one of the leading reasons for workman's compensation and lost productivity.
Unfortunately, sitting at a desk for hours is positively horrible for your back, especially if your workstation isn't properly optimized.
The good news is that with a few tweaks and changes, your back doesn't have to suffer for the sake of your job.
Keep reading to find out how you can leverage office ergonomics to beat back pain.
Raise Your Screen
One of the primary things you can do to help prevent back pain at work is to raise your screen. Unless you have a short torso and an uber-large monitor, chances are your screen is too low.
If your screen is positioned too low, this can cause you to drop your head and inadvertently hunch over. Poor posture is one of the biggest causes of back pain, which is why screen height is so critical for an ergonomic office.
Ideally, the center of your screen should sit at eye level.
To test where your screen needs to be when designing your office setup, sit with your head facing forward, look straight ahead, and close your eyes.
Open your eyes. The point where your line of sight hits should be aligned with the center of your screen.
If you have a free-standing monitor, the easiest way to elevate your screen is with a monitor riser. In a pinch, you can even use a temporary stack of books until you find the perfect monitor stand.
Another way you can elevate your screen is with a computer monitor arm.
If you're working on a laptop, you will need to elevate the whole laptop. This won't be quite as ergonomic, as it may affect your arm angle.
Ideally, your arms should sit at a right angle when your hands are at your keyboard. Raising your laptop might mean that your hands have to sit higher than your elbows. But, this is still better for your posture than hunching over a screen that's too low.
Because of the angle that laptops can force your arms and wrists into, it's best to elevate them with an ergonomic laptop stand. Laptop stands such as the ones we stock are specifically designed to tilt for maximum comfort and minimum stress on your elbows and wrists while bringing your screen up to a more ergonomic height.
Choose the Right Chair
If you're looking for back pain relief, the next thing to evaluate is your office chair. Unfortunately, ergonomics isn't always the first thing companies consider when designing an office space.
There's a high chance you're sitting on a cheap, poorly designed-office chair, and it might be one of the main causes of your back pain.
If you're working from home, you might be making the common mistake of commandeering a dining chair instead of investing in an office chair. Either way, it's time to pick out an ergonomic chair for your workstation.
The chair you choose needs to fit with your unique proportions to promote good posture.
For instance, the seat needs to be wide enough for you to have even, comfortable pressure. It mustn't be too deep, as this can force you to sit with a round back.
Instead, you need to be able to sit comfortably with the base of your spine resting against the back of the chair.
Look For Lumbar Support
One of the things a lot of office chairs lack is proper lumbar support. Lumbar support is critical for staving off certain types of back pain, and it can also be a big source of back pain relief.
Lumbar support helps to promote good posture by increasing support in the lower curve of your back.
If you don't feel like buying a whole new office chair just because it has lumber support built into the backrest, you can also use a lumbar support pillow.
Engage Your Core With an Active Chair
A high-quality, adjustable office chair that fits your proportions is a big step up from a kitchen stool or a cheap swivel chair. But, if you really want to take things to the next level, you can also look into active chairs.
Active chairs challenge your balance and allow you to move your body while staying seated at your desk.
This helps to promote circulation, relieve pressure on the joints, enhance balance, ease stiffness, and increase alertness. Most importantly of all, active chairs engage your core muscles.
Having a strong core is known to be able to help reduce certain types of back pain.
Invest in a Standing Desk
Sitting for long hours in the wrong chair is a sure recipe for back pain. But, sitting in and of itself is horrible for one's health.
Sometimes, it doesn't matter how good your chair is, it's the sitting that's the problem.
If you want to learn how to prevent back pain at work and give your body a break from sitting, a standing desk could be the ideal solution.
Because standing desks get you into an active position, they can:
- Help reduce the chances of sitting-related weight gain
- Help improve mood and energy levels
- Help reduce the risk of heart disease
- Help lower blood sugar levels
As far as back pain goes, standing desks can provide back pain relief by:
- Improving posture
- Keeping the spine in a more neutral position
- Engaging your core
Of course, standing for too long can also be one of the causes of back pain. Fortunately, most well-designed standing desks are adjustable. You can raise or lower them at will, giving your body a break from having to maintain one posture for too long.
We stock a wide range of adjustable standing desks, as well as standing desk converters. Standing desk converters allow you to easily convert your workstation into a standing desk, without having to buy a whole new desk.
Long hours on your feet can also trigger foot pain. If you're worried a standing desk is going to place strain on your feet, you might also want to look into equipping your ergonomic office setup with an anti-fatigue foot mat.
Kit Out Your Desk With an Adjustable Keyboard Tray
Another thing to think about when figuring out how to prevent back pain is the height and angle of your keyboard.
Poor keyboard ergonomics might force you to hunch your shoulders, draw them up around your ears, tense your neck—the list goes on.
If you use a free-standing keyboard, the easiest way to make sure it's ergonomically aligned with your body is to invest in a keyboard tray.
Adjustable keyboard trays such as the ones we stock allow you to optimize your posture while typing, and reduce strain on your wrists by maintaining a neutral or negative wrist tilt.
If you want to quickly convert your setup to a standing desk, we also manufacture and stock on-desk adjustable-height keyboard stands
Take Note of How You Use Your Tablet
Do you use a table a lot at work? If yes, is it positioned ergonomically?
Even if you don't use a tablet at all in the office, you might want to think about how many hours you spend holding your phone or tablet during your free time.
If you add it all up, you might find that you're spending quite a few hours per day hunched over, with your head down, looking at your device.
Holding your phone or tablet up at eye level every time you want to use it is not sustainable. Instead, you might want to look into getting a tablet holder.
Tablet computer stands allow you to position your tablet in a more ergonomic way and leave both of your hands free.
Take Breaks to Move Your Body
Besides creating an ergonomic office setup for yourself, it's also critical that you take breaks to move your body. In case you haven't heard, sitting is the new smoking and it can wreak havoc on your overall health.
If you're suffering from back pain, or want to prevent it at work—making time to move is absolutely key. The longer you sit motionless, the more silent strain this will place on your spine, joints, and back muscles.
If you can, try to block out mini movement breaks. These can be as simple as taking a walk to grab some water or doing some stretches.
Another great way you can incorporate movement into your working hours is through a balance board. Balance boards have become popular in modern office spaces as they give employees a chance to incorporate short stints of movement into their workdays.
Most balance boards require you to step away from your computer, but we stock balance boards you can even use right at your desk. They are ideal for use in conjunction with a standing desk, and allow you to tip forwards, move side-to-side, or sway in a complete circle.
These movements keep your leg muscles and core engaged, helping you to stay active and energized, no matter how many hours you need to spend at your computer.
The feeling of flowing through your workday with a balance board is truly incredible. With our balance boards, you don't have to choose between moving and getting work done, you can do both.
Roll Out Your Neck and Shoulders
Another way you can move your body and reduce tension in your back is by rolling your neck and shoulders.
It's easy to get carried away with what you're doing, and before you know it hours have passed and you're still in the same position. If you feel stiffness creeping into your back, neck, or shoulders, make it a habit to do a few neckrolls and shoulder rolls.
Looking After Your Back Outside of the Office
Improving the ergonomics of your office setup is key to preventing back pain. It can also guard against injuries like carpel tunnel syndrome, promote better posture, blood flow, and more.
But looking after your back shouldn't just be something you think about in the office. If you're suffering from back pain, you might also need to make some lifestyle adjustments to help strengthen your back and reduce strain.
One of the first places to start is by focusing on your posture, no matter what you are doing. Whether you're driving, watching TV, taking the dogs for a walk, or sitting up in bed, try not to slouch, keep your shoulder back and your spine erect.
Increasing your levels of physical activity outside of work can also help prevent back pain. Exercises that improve mobility and flexibility such as yoga and pilates can also be helpful.
Finally, if you're dealing with excess weight, taking steps to achieve and maintain a healthy weight can also help to reduce strain on your back.
Keep in mind that back pain isn't something you should ignore or try to tackle all on your own. You might also want to seek out help from a chiropractor or physical therapist.
Now You Know How to Prevent Back Pain at Work the Ergonomic Way
The overarching causes of back pain at work usually boil down to bad posture and lack of movement. We tend to blame ourselves for these things, but most of the time it's our office furniture and equipment that's the problem.
Optimizing the way you sit and work is absolutely key if you're suffering from back pain.
Now that you know how to prevent back pain at work, the next step is to create a more ergonomic office setup for yourself.
Here at Uncaged Ergonomics, we have everything you need to ergonomically transform your workstation.
Browse our range of well-designed yet cost-effective ergonomic office products today.