Office Worker Back Problems and How to Solve Them

Posted by on Sep 26, 2016 in Feat, Fitness, Gadgets, Health | Comments Off on Office Worker Back Problems and How to Solve Them

Office Worker Back Problems and How to Solve Them

Human bodies are not designed for a sedentary lifestyle.

However, in this technologically driven society, people often feel there is no choice but to spend generous portions of the day sitting in one spot. The age of computers has brought about a surplus of a lot of office-based jobs that requires employees to sit in front of a desk for at least eight hours a day!

back-pain-in-chair

At this rate, even the average healthy person’s back can take a beating from this low-energy lifestyle. Typically, this lifestyle leads to increased pain, stiffness and long-term problems. Science shows that the body is naturally designed to be active, and sedentary positions cause back muscles to tense up from supporting the rest of the body in a single stance for too long. In turn, the spine is also adversely affected.

Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common work-related injuries. More often than not, back pain is caused by accumulation of stress from ordinary work activities such as sitting in an office chair or heavy lifting. There are generally two types of back pain:

  • Non-accidental injury, where pain arises as a result of normal activities and requirements of the task. Poor body mechanics (such as slouching in an office chair), prolonged inactivity, repetitive motions, and fatigue are major contributors to these injuries. This may occur from sitting in an office chair or standing for too long in one position.
  • Accidental injury results when an unexpected event triggers injury during the task. A load that slips or shifts as it is being lifted, or hitting one’s head on a cabinet door are typical office-related examples. These accidents can jolt the neck, back, and other joints with resulting muscle strain or tearing of soft tissues in the back.

experiencing-back-pain

The non-accidental type of injury is what kills our backs. Surely, a few minutes of slouching may not cause a huge back pain, but after having a hundred few minutes accumulated after a week’s worth of poor body mechanics, anyone can definitely feel the back pain kick in.

The easy-access solution for this is ergonomics. Applying ergonomic principles – the study of the workplace as it relates to the worker – can help prevent work-related back pain and back injury, and help maintain a healthy back. The goal of an ergonomics program in industry is to adapt the workplace to a specific worker, depending on the job description, required tasks, and physical makeup of the employee performing those tasks. These, can then be applied to the office equipment, such as the chair or computer keyboard.

However, despite many companies promoting ergonomic working conditions, countless employees still continue to practice poor posture at their desk, even outside the office. Aside from sitting all day at the office, people also tend to sit awkwardly in heavy traffic during daily commute, while eating lunch or during coffee breaks. All this just adds to the stress on the back, which could lead to long-term (and oftentimes permanent) damage to the lower back’s ligaments.

Additionally, living a sedentary lifestyle in general contributes to obesity. This is another cause which can consequently lead to undue strain on the back. The joints and muscles are not designed to endure extra weight as the years go by, and as the bodies are aging and growing frailer, people still tend to demand that they can take on more work. It’s a vicious cycle that is detrimental to the whole body.

And it all starts in the back.

The Macro-level Solution

To treat back problems before they even come, there are ways to strengthen them. Looking at the big picture, strengthening the back requires these basic steps:

slouching-at-desk

  • Stay active. This is the most important thing one can do to prevent and/or relieve back pain. If possible, take frequent breaks at work and walk/jog during lunch hour. Once at home, overcome end-of-day fatigue by hitting the gym or walking the dog. In other words, avoid the TV and Internet!

Engaging in exercise and fitness activities helps keep the back healthy by allowing discs to exchange fluids which is how the disc receives its nutrition. A healthy disc swells with water and squeeze it out, similar to the action of a sponge. This sponge action distributes nutrients to the disc.

Exercising the back also reduces stiffness by keeping the connective fibers of ligaments and tendons flexible. Improved mobility through back exercise helps prevent the connective fibers from tearing under stress, which in turn prevents injury and back pains.

  • Have a discussion with the employer about minimal adjustments that can be done to reduce chronic pain:

This could include getting a chair specifically designed to alleviate back pain or an adjusted schedule to allow for stretches and an active breather from the cubicle.

Also, go out and make a personal effort to find ways to deal with back pain. If people can go out shopping for the best Trench Coats 2016 and the White Coat Black Friday Sale, surely you should be able to find a good deal on an ergonomic chair. Now, if it’s for the relief of back pains, it is important to be mindful of the best market for the best deal on ergonomic furniture, supported attachments and other back pain comforters in the market.

  • When pain is exceptionally bad, call a doctor. While rare, back pain can be a sign of something more serious. If your desk job causes serious damage to the back, it could be causing more damage to other parts of the body as well.

The Micro-level Solution

Here are the most important guidelines from Spine-health.com to help make sure that the office chair and work area are as comfortable as possible, and cause the least amount of stress to the spine:

stretching-in-chair

  • Elbow measure: First, begin by sitting comfortably as close as possible to the desk so that the upper arms are parallel to the spine. Rest hands on the work surface (e.g. desktop, computer keyboard). If the elbows are not at a 90-degree angle, adjust the office chair height either up or down.
  • Thigh measure: Check that the fingers can easily slide under the thigh at the leading edge of the office chair. If it is too tight, the feet should be propped up with an adjustable footrest. For taller people, the desk or work surface may need to be raised to give room for adjustment of the office chair.
  • Calf measure: With the back pushed all the way against the back of the chair, try to pass a clenched fist between the back of the calf and the front of the office chair. If this can’t be done easily, the office chair may be too deep. In this case, the backrest must be adjusted forward. If all else fails, insert a low back support (such as a lumbar support cushion, a pillow or rolled up towel), or just get a new office chair.
  • Low back support: With the back pushed all the ways against the back of the chair, there should be a cushion that causes the lower back to arch slightly so that the body won’t slump forward or slouch down in the chair. This low back support in the office chair is essential to minimize the load (strain) on the back. Never slump or slouch forward in the office chair, as that places extra stress on the structures in the low back, and in particular, on the lumbar discs.

happy-worker

  • Armrest: Adjust the armrest of the office chair so that it just slightly lifts the arms at the shoulders. Use of an armrest on the office chair is important to take some of the strain off the upper spine and shoulders, and it should make one less likely to slouch forward in the chair.