I think back injuries are the most common health problem people experience at work. In this post I want to look at some of the causes and some ways you can tackle the problem.
What causes a sore back at work?
Depending on the kind of work you do there are a few things that can cause a sore back. For the purpose of this post we are going to assume that you are like me; sitting at a desk looking at a computer for the majority of the day.
I will go through the major causes and give them an indication of severity.
1. Hunching Forward
Severity: Moderate to High
Hunching forward is when you roll your shoulders towards the computer so that the back of your neck has to curve for your to look straight ahead. It is quite a serious posture problem as it blocks a lot of the blood flow to your head and is very bad for the neck.
Sitting like this will cause pain in the upper back and neck and probably give you a headache. Over time your posture can permanently change and your headaches will last longer.
2. Sitting with one leg tucked in
I often sit with one leg tucked under my bottom in sort of a “half crossed leg” position. I don’t know why I do this but I have since found out that it has caused me some pretty serious back problems.
Sitting like this causes your spine to curve. Once your body starts to become uneven you will try to straighten yourself by twisting into the right place. However, this twisting causes more problems because it is no longer a matter of sitting up straight – your muscles are now out of line. This will cause an ongoing sore back and often a pinching pain.
3. Sitting on a high chair with feet off the ground
Severity: Low to Moderate
If you sit on a high chair where you feet cannot touch the ground it is likely that you will hunch your back in order to stay balanced. You really do need the support of the floor to sit up straight. The pain associated with sitting like this is similar to number one.
4. Sitting at a low desk
Sitting at a low desk will cause you to do many things that harm your back. Firstly, you will lean forward in order to get to the keyboard. I am doing this right now! Secondly, you will possibly shift your feet into an improper position which again causes problems.
5. Sitting without lower back support
Lower back support is not essential but goes a long way in helping you sit correctly. The most important reason to have lower back support is that it helps you keep your posture upright and avoid slouching or hunching.
6. Having the mouse too far away
If you spend a lot of time using the mouse it is important that you don’t have it too far away. I noticed at the local DMV yesterday that all the staff had fixed mice that were way too far away. This forced them to lean towards the mouse – a position that surely becomes very uncomfortable.
Try to keep your mouse and your keyboard in line. You want to keep your body in a nice even line so that you aren’t leaning or swaying to one side.
How to fix back pain at work
Obviously, you need to do the opposite of everything mentioned above! However, I will give you some additional tips that will make your back much happier. Some of these tips will be preventative while others will be things you can do when your back is sore.
1. Stretch it out
When you get a sore back it is important that you get up and give it a few good stretches. Twist from side to side and give it a good shake around. My favorite way to stretch it out however is by grabbing a solid bar (or desk!) and leaning backwards. This stretches out the latts muscles very well. Take a look at the image below from ExRx.net.
This is a fantastic stretch to do a few times a day. The more flexible your back the better.
2. Sit on a fitness ball
When I went to book a flight to India a few years ago I noticed my travel agent was sitting on a fitness ball bouncing around. I asked why he was sitting on that instead of a chair and he told me it was a new company policy to help keep employee’s backs healthy.
I did some research and bought a ball for my own desk. Almost straight away I could feel the benefits and have since recommended it to many of my friends. Sitting on a fitness ball allows you to move around and keep your back active. It also helps you to sit upright with your feet firmly on the floor.
Now you can even buy chairs with a fitness ball at the base! These are really cool. I am yet to try one though. Has anyone got one?
You can buy these things really cheap from Amazon.com here.
3. Keep moving
It is important to get up out of your chair as often as possible and move around. If the back spends too much time in one position it can cause problems for itself – especially if you are sitting in a bad position. A simple walk around or trip to the kitchen goes a long way.
4. Exercise when not at work
If your back is strengthen with sport, weights and stretching you will be much less likely to experience back problems at work. It is important to look after your back 24 hours a day, not just when you are sitting in the chair. A gym session a couple of times per week will make a world of difference.
5. Get a deep tissue massage
Going to see a physiotherapist is very important. You will continue to experience back pain if your body is out of line. A deep tissue massage is the best way to get your body back in line and on an even playing field. Many of my headaches and back aches went away when I got my body realigned.
Deep tissue massage is not “cracking” like a chiropractor would do. It works with the tight points and loosens them up so that you muscles and bones are free to move how they are supposed to. For this reason you will need less sessions and the results will last longer.
Do you have a sore back at work?
I would love to hear from some people who get a sore back at work. What causes it? What are you doing to fix it?