Spine Savers: Seven Ways to Look After your Back at Work
7th October 2015
Back pain is becoming an increasingly serious workplace hazard. According to the NHS, it is the leading cause of long-term sickness in the UK, and in 2013, racked up 15 million lost work days. This is more than even stress-related illness, which begs the question, where are we going wrong?
From posture to furniture, countless elements of office life can affect our back health. To coincide with the Backcare charity launching Backcare Awareness Week from 7 – 11 October, we have put together seven tips for looking after your back at work, to help you avoid spinal problems, both now and in later life.
1. Match your chair to your body
When was the last time you customised the particulars of your office chair? Tweaking things like its height – so your feet lie flat on the floor and your knees at 90 degree angles – can make a huge difference to the strain on your back. Armrests should also be positioned to support your arms at 90 degree angles.
Your chair itself, however, is just as important as its components. Office chairs should offer lumbar support, resting against your lower back to support the natural curve of your spine. If your chair is lacking this, you could try placing a pillow or rolled up towel behind your back.
2. Move around more
Remaining largely sedentary puts a surprising amount of pressure on your spine. Moving around when possible throughout the day can help to counteract this. Why not slot in some gentle exercise on your lunch break, or step away from your desk every 30 minutes or so, even if it’s just to get a drink?
3. Sit up straight
Simple yet effective, sitting up straight can do wonders for your back. Ensure your spine is supported by the base of your chair, your shoulder blades by your backrest, and that your head is positioned right over your body to avoid neck strain. Try to avoid slouching in your seat, hunching over your keyboard or cradling a phone between your shoulder and your ear.
4. Reposition computer equipment
One of the most effective ways of ensuring you sit up straight at your desk is to reposition your computer equipment. Make sure you can view your computer screen without straining your eyes or leaning forward, and have your keyboard and mouse within easy reach. You should be able to rest your arms comfortably on your desk as you use them, rather than stretching.
5. Breathe from your belly
Without even knowing it, your breathing could be affecting your spine. Do your shoulders rise as you breathe in? This is incredibly common, but in actual fact, you should be breathing with your diaphragm, causing your belly to expand.
Breathing into your shoulders won’t cripple you, but it could be causing unnecessary strain around your neck.
6. Try pilates
Pilates is a gentle form of exercise that can help to keep your joints supple, providing a kind of therapy for your back. Not only that, but it can improve your concentration and calm your mind: both physical and mental relaxation is essential to workplace health.
7. Exercise outside work
Exercising in your spare time can help keep your bones, muscles and joints in shape, and greatly improve your general wellbeing. You don’t have to start running marathons – jogging, swimming or cycling at least a couple of times a week can help.
By making these few simple changes, you’ll could soon find that your working life is much more comfortable.
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