Is Your Work Station Destroying Your Back?

It usually begins with some slight back pain in the evenings, after a long day at work. As time progresses, you may develop chronic pain that affects you at any hour, whether you've been working or not. Don't ignore back pain or depend on over-the-counter pain killers to combat it. Instead, actively work to get rid of the cause and to heal your back.

Your Basic Setup

Work fatigue and back pain sets in when you aren't positioned at your computer or desk properly to keep your spine and muscles in balance. Your height combined with the height of your desk is the biggest culprit.

When sitting down, your elbows should bend at a 90 degrees angle to reach the keyboard or work surface. If you have to slump down over your desk to type or write, your chair is too high or your desk is too low.

Your knees should also bend only 90 degrees, with your feet resting flat on the floor. A common mistake is to adjust your chair so it's too low, and you have to stick your legs out in front of you or tuck them under the chair.

Don't forget neck strain! If necessary, raise your computer monitor so it's directly in your line of sight. Inclining your head downward to stare at the computer will only result in a sore or stiff neck.

Choosing the Right Chair

Many computer chairs today are labeled as ergonomic. A true ergonomic chair should have a curved and cushioned back that provides lower back, or lumbar, support. Armrests are also a must, otherwise you may have to lean forward to support the weight of your arms as you type and work.

Only purchase adjustable chairs. The more adjustments, the better. At the very least, you should be able to adjust chair height to match it to your height and the desk. Adjustable backs are also a good idea, because this ensures you can tilt the lumbar support so it truly supports your lower back.

If your feet don't reach the ground, use a small footrest to provide support. Dangling legs and dragging toes can put stress on your back. You are also less likely to maintain good posture if your legs aren't comfortable.

If You're Experiencing Back Pain:

  • Monitor your posture. It's important to keep your spine straight so you don't put stress on already fatigued muscles.

  • Stand up every 30 to 45 minutes to stretch and walk around. This will help relieve the pain and encourage healing.

  • Try a chair alternative. Some workers find it more comfortable to substitute an exercise ball for a chair, because it forces good posture. Even just changing your office chair to a slightly different design may help.

  • Consult with a chiropractor. They can help find the cause of the pain. Chiropractors may also be able to perform adjustments, recommend exercises, or provide lifestyle tips that can reduce the pain.

  • If the pain is purely in the muscles, consider getting a professional massage to work out the kinks.

There's no need to end every day with a sore back. If you can find the cause or make adjustments to the work environment to fix it yourself, make the time to schedule a chiropractic appointment. At the very least, your doctor can pinpoint the main cause of your discomfort and provide you with tools to overcome it.