5 Practical Ways to Avoid Back Pain When Working in Front of a Computer
Working in front of a computer for as long as 9 hours every single day—this has become the normal situation in many workplaces today. And together with this, back pain has also become one of the most common complaints among office workers. If your job includes long hours at your desk at least 5 times a week, if you’re starting to feel back pain take a toll on your health and on your productivity, it’s time to do something!
Back Pain Prevention and Relief: Some Actionable Steps that You Can Take Right Away
Back pain is a result of different factors at play in your day-to-day life, from physical to mental and emotional. The good news is that you are in control. From simple actions such as sitting properly and moving more, to being more mindful of your mental and emotional wellbeing, to redesigning your work space to match your needs, there are practical things that you can do to take charge of the situation.
Pretty basic, right? We all learned this as early as kindergarten. However, you’ll be surprised how many people sit mindlessly with incorrect posture. And, improper sitting posture contributes to back pain. Whether it’s at work typing on a computer or at home watching your daily evening news or movies, most people tend to either hunch or slouch without even knowing it. This distorts the proper alignment of the spine, causing not only back pain but a whole slew of other problems such as reduced oxygen in the body and bone degradation.
Keeping a proper sitting posture can be approached in two ways. You can actively sit properly by being mindful of your posture. Take a post it, write “Sit straight!” on it, and place it somewhere visible to you so that you are reminded to correct your posture every time you glance at it as you work.
Another way to go is to keep your proper sitting posture by getting an ergonomic chair with a lumbar support that follows your body’s natural alignment. With the right chair, you don’t need to keep reminding yourself to sit straight—the chair will help you do that.
Break the monotony of prolonged sitting by taking regular breaks
Keeping your body in one fixed position for long hours, your muscles tense and unmoving, is bound to take its toll on your back, your shoulders, and your neck. Your spine specifically suffers when you sit for long hours, your body often stiff without you noticing it.
Combat prolonged sitting by taking regular breaks. This can be as simple as standing up to get water from your office’s water cooler, to stretch your back and arms, or to check on your teammates. This is beneficial not only to your muscles but also to your eyes as you peel them away from the computer monitor for a while.
There are many ways to inject a break in your work schedule. One technique that you can try is pomodoro, which breaks work into small 25-minute pockets, followed by a 5-minute break. This is proven helpful not only in breaking the monotony of sitting but also in keeping employees productive. To learn more about the pomodoro technique, you can check out this article.
Level up by alternating between standing and sitting
Taking a break every 30 minutes or one hour to stand and stretch or take a quick walk is one thing, but to make standing a part of your work habit is another. It can significantly prevent back pain by keeping the back muscles engaged.
When you stand, your weight constantly shifts between your two feet, and this constant shifting keeps the muscles active and moving. This, in turn, promotes proper blood circulation and prevents pain on your back muscles. Take note, however, that standing must be done the right way in order to get the benefits while avoiding the risks. You can check out our article on how to stand properly before you get started.
One way to make the switch from sitting to standing easy is to modify your old desk into a standing desk. Standing desks feature an adjustable height that you can control with a keypad. You can set the desk to a sitting height, and then to a standing height when needed—shifting from one height to another is a breeze.
Nothing beats regular exercise when it comes to keeping yourself active and your muscles stimulated, resulting in less back pain. Make sure you find time to exercise regularly. You can start with 2-3 times a week of 30-min exercise, building up to 4-5 times a week until you get used to the rhythm.
One secret to creating an exercise routine that you can maintain for a long time is to find one that you love. If you are motivated by being with people when you exercise, going to the gym or getting an exercise buddy may be the best way to go. If you love the outdoors, then find time to visit your neighborhood park to jog or do simple exercises.
Now that most of us are indoors because of the pandemic, you can try home exercises that require no complex gear. There are also online classes that you can enroll in. The options are practically endless!
Here are a few simple stretches and exercises you can try to begin with:
- Wall sit
- Bird dog exercise
- Knee to chest exercise
- Hamstring stretch
- Seated spinal twist
Check your mental and emotional wellness
While it’s easy to focus on physical causes when addressing back pain, remember to also pay attention to your mental state at work.
Do you often find yourself stressed or anxious at work? Stress often brings about a disruption in your normal breathing pattern. It causes strain and tightening in the muscles, from spine to the shoulders and the neck. The danger is that it is so subconscious and unnoticeable. And if stress is causing the problem, then it won’t likely disappear completely even if you exercise.
So how do you deal with stress-induced back pain?
First, find time to rest, relax, and recharge after work. Make sure ypur work time doesn’t cross over into your personal time.
Second, identify the root cause of your stress. Sometimes, the mere awareness of the cause can already bring a certain amount of relief because it gives you power to address it.
And third, take action. Beat the stress to beat the pain, maybe not instantly, but one small action at a time.
When the stress gets overwhelming and out of control, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. The earlier you address the source, the faster it disappears and the sooner you can enjoy a pain-free life.
Back pain may have become all too common among many individuals today, but you can take control and find ways to prevent and address it. Remember to practice healthy habits and add movements into your day-to-day activities. In addition, make your workspace work for you. Eliminate possible causes of the problem and check if you can invest in ergonomic office furniture that will make sitting or standing easy, convenient, and—yes—even healthy.
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