Thousands of UK people see a doctor or take time off work each year due to back pain. In today’s Modern society, we often spend many hours sitting at our desks in poor postural positions, which can put a strain on the spine. While this may not cause discomfort immediately, it may worsen and lead to injuries over time.
While working from a laptop at home may be convenient for some, caution is needed to protect your back. Due to the design of a laptop (with an attached keyboard), maintaining good neck and head posture can be challenging. Worse still, working on a laptop from your sofa or bed may induce slumping in your lower and mid back. In addition, leaning your head forward to view the screen means poor spinal alignment, which can lead to injury.
To summarise, slouching or slumping should be avoided because it can:
- Wear away at your spine, making it more fragile and prone to injury
- Misalign your musculoskeletal system
- Create neck, shoulder, and back pain
However, on a positive note, your back is more robust than you may think and not easily damaged. Although simple sprains and strains may be common, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy notes that 98% of individuals recover reasonably quickly. But logically, why take time off to recover if you can avoid back pain at the outset?
Improve your posture
As mentioned remaining in the same position for hours can lead to issues including postural fatigue, discomfort, and backache. Unfortunately, most of us are unaware of our posture until someone reminds us or we begin to get neck or backache. But setting little reminders on our mobile devices to get up and move about can be a great way of changing a bad postural habit and start making improvements. Staying active and being mindful of your posture is an excellent start to improving your posture in general.
A simple but essential self-assessment is to analyse if your office chair is ‘properly fitted’ to your body. For example, does it provide enough lower back support?
An ergonomic office chair may provide better support for your spine than a regular chair, especially if you plan to be seated most of the day.
Even if you cannot replace your current office chair or desk, adjust them to become ergonomically aligned to support your spine.
Do you need an adjustable under-desk footrest to support you? For example, while sitting at your desk, if your feet don’t touch the floor, a suitable footrest may supply that needed support for your body.
Move around more
Our bodies need movement to function well and avoid problems! So why not set a goal to take a break from the desk every hour? Keeping active during breaks can increase circulation, reduce muscle tension and relieve your spine from being in the same position for a prolonged period.
Even if you work long hours at the desk, keeping track of your daily step count could motivate you to get up and move around. If your number of steps has reduced, why not the long way around to your office desk? Simply adding a 20-minute walking ‘commute’ to your desk in the morning and when you leave can make a difference over the week.
During your breaks, include exercises that can strengthen your core muscles. Deep abdominal muscles keep your body upright and can provide the body with enough natural support to help maintain the spine’s natural curves.
Back pain – benefits of the ‘correct’ active work
Active work can have a positive impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. The idea that manual handling or repetitive movements alone are ‘bad for employees’ is a myth. However, active work approached wrongly can sometimes contribute to back pain.
Proper stretching maintains muscle flexibility and keeps them strong and healthy. We need that flexibility to support a range of motion in our joints. Without this, the muscles will likely shorten and become tight.
If you do experience a back injury or discomfort, here is some helpful advice :
- In the first days of injury, avoid any activity which may induce further damage. However, avoiding pronged rest may be beneficial in your circumstance.
- Careful exercise is known to help tackle back pain and is the most effective strategy to prevent future episodes. Pilates, yoga, and swimming have proven to assist with some injuries.
- Getting enough rest can reduce stress and stiffness and improve your overall feeling of wellbeing.
- Osteopathy uses a wide variety of gentle hands-on techniques to reduce your pain and prevent it from returning.
For further assistance with back pain, please speak to one of our professional team at the Backcare & Acupuncture Clinic.