How much time do you spend sitting at the computer each day? Our digital world provides many opportunities for computer careers, with millions of people working from home or in a cubicle at the office.
While computers and smartphones make it easy to manage communication and online projects, it’s important to understand how much these devices affect the human body. Humans are made to move – which is why prolonged sitting and poor ergonomics can take a toll on overall health.
Why You Need to Consider Ergonomics
If you work in an office and experience chronic pain, then it’s time to re-evaluate your working conditions. Ergonomics play an important role in how your body is positioned throughout the day, affecting pain levels.
Even if you aren’t experiencing chronic pain right now, it’s still essential to prioritize ergonomics. Prevention is an excellent investment to protect your body – the best way to avoid long-term pain and chronic issues in the future.
Sometimes, chronic pain issues are caused by poor office ergonomics. Other times, the body position while working contributes to an existing injury that worsens (and potentially slows) recovery.
Back Pain: The Most Common Work-Related Injury
Did you know that back pain is the most common work-related injury? Daily activities such as heavy lifting or sitting at a computer all day can take a toll on the spine, leading to chronic pain and injuries.
Injuries from heavy lifting and accidents are obvious concerns. But long-term strain from office or computer work is often overlooked. Unfortunately, these types of workplace injuries are becoming more common, and pain management specialists are stressing the importance of improving ergonomics to reduce the risk of injury.
Employees are protected through workplace regulations, which means that employers must provide safe and supportive work environments to reduce or eliminate the risk of injury. An ergonomics program can improve safety and decrease the likelihood of back pain and other types of work-related injuries.
Ergonomics Program to Reduce the Risk of Back Pain
Each workplace is unique, which is why there isn’t one solution that is effective for every employer. Instead, it is essential to consider the types of tasks and the abilities of the workforce.
There are two main types of injury in the workplace that can cause back pain:
- Acute Injury: An accident or event results in a sudden injury, and the back starts hurting. Examples include improper lifting that strains the back, a car accident, a slip and fall accident, or bumping the head on a cabinet door.
- Non-Accident Injury: On the other hand, back pain can slowly creep in due to poor ergonomics. For example, everyday activities and repetitive motions can contribute to these issues. Something as simple as standing in one position for too long or slouching in an office chair can take a toll over time.
When back injuries happen, the pain occurs because of strain or soft tissue damage in the back. So not only do employees in physically-demanding jobs need to protect their backs, but it’s just as crucial for office workers to be proactive about back pain prevention as well.
Ergonomic Tips for Minimizing Back Pain
Whether you are currently experiencing back pain or you want to reduce the risk of back pain in the future, here are a few tips to help with office ergonomics:
Adjustable Work Station
When you are spending a lot of time at the computer, consider the option to use a sit-stand workstation. This setup allows you to move the desk space up and down so you can either sit or stand during the workday.
Most sit-stand desks are easy to adjust with a lever or a button. In addition, you have the option to choose the ideal height, so you are minimizing pressure on the neck and back.
The movement from sitting and standing helps your spine to adjust during the day. Plus, you can reduce pressure on the spine and enhance blood flow by shifting positions as needed.
When the screen is too low or too high, you are putting unnecessary pressure on the cervical spine while looking at the computer screen.
Pay attention: if you have neck or shoulder pain at the end of the day, it is likely because of the screen’s position.
Ideally, you should position the top of the screen, so it is eye level. This height minimizes the need to look up or down while you are working.
Just because you need to be at the computer for hours each day doesn’t mean that you can’t include movement in your routine. Motion protects your spine and strengthens your body.
Prioritize exercise, so you are keeping your body moving throughout the week. Even something as simple as taking a walk on your lunch break can have a long-term effect on reducing the risk of back pain.
Many people get focused on their projects and forget to take breaks. If needed, set reminders on your phone to stand and stretch or improve your posture in the moment. Ideally, you should be getting up to move every 30 minutes.
Invest in Good Equipment
Office equipment is an investment because of the way it supports the body and protects the spine.
Choose a chair with a backrest so you can support the lumbar (lower) back. When sitting, both feet should be flat on the floor, and the thighs positioned at hip level – horizontal to the knees. A footrest can be comfortable and helpful to create the optimal position for the legs and hips.
Other types of office equipment include a hands-free headset if you are on the phone a lot, an ergonomic keyboard, computer glasses, and/or a laptop stand to raise the height of your screen.
If you can feel the tension building in your back and shoulders, then take a break to stretch out the muscles. Something as simple as stretching the shoulders or rolling your head to stretch the neck can alleviate the pressure and reduce pain.
Focus these stretching exercises on the shoulders, neck, back, hips, and legs as needed.
Pain Management Specialists: Consultations are Available
If you sit at a computer, watch out for common positions that can contribute to back pain, such as slouching over or leaning forward to see the screen. These positions might be fine for a moment, but prolonged ergonomics issues activate the back muscles in a way that can lead to pain development.
Our team can help you evaluate your office ergonomics. We also offer other alternative pain management solutions to reduce your discomfort.
For more information, schedule a consultation with us at Kentuckiana Pain Specialists. We help patients throughout the Louisville, Kentucky area. Call us at (502) 995-4004.