By Amanda Morgan
On a scale from one to ten how high would you rate your daily neck and back pain? For most Americans the answer is high. Around 86% of working Americans work at jobs that require them to sit at a desk or table. While Americans work at these desks for long periods of time they often maintain poor posture which over extended periods of time can lead to discomfort in the back and neck. Fortunately, with some small adjustments to your positioning and routine, back pain will become a thing of the past. Read this article to learn nine things you can change to reduce the chance of chronic pain after sitting at a desk all day.
Does your desk chair have a proper curvature to it? Does it allow you to rest your feet on the floor? Are your arms supported while sitting? If you answered no to any of these questions, you may want to consider investing in a new chair. The type of chair a person sits on plays an important role in spinal and neck support. Chairs that do not offer adequate support will lead to unnecessary pain. A good chair will support your spinal curve, allow your feet to rest on the floor, and include armrests. The term ergonomic is used to describe a chair that has these features and ultimately offers proper neck and back support. Find a chair that best supports your needs so you can finally enjoy sitting at your desk.
2) Non-traditional Chairs
Chairs are not the only option when sitting at a desk. Recently nontraditional chairs have become very popular in order to maintain proper posture. What makes these options different than a traditional chair is the lack of back support. Instead these alternatives encourage people to maintain good posture and thus decrease the amount of tension in the back. One popular option is a kneeling ergonomic chair. This chair puts the person in a kneeling position while providing support to the shins. The hips are pushed forward which helps the person maintain a straight back. However, if you have knee problems, this might not be the chair for you. Instead try using an exercise ball, especially if you are experiencing lower back pain. An exercise ball prevents a person from putting strain on one part of the spine and helps the person to distribute their weight evenly.
People always say that getting started is always the hardest part of a project but pausing a task can be just as challenging. Often we get so focused on our work that we forget to stretch and move around. This can be harmful to our bodies especially when we sit by a computer all day. A quick five or ten-minute break could be the difference between chronic back pain or a pain free day. During your five-minute break consider taking a walk to get your blood flowing and loosen the joints. Even if you cannot move away from your desk, you can stretch out your arms, legs and shoulders. You may find yourself becoming more productive than ever before because these short breaks will allow your mind to better process and analyze the information you are looking at.
4) Feet Position
Quickly look down. How are you resting your legs and feet? If you answered that they are crossed than this could be a contributing factor to your back pain. It is important that you do not sit cross-legged as it prohibits proper position of the spine and shoulders. People tend to lean backwards when they cross their legs and overstretch the muscles around the pelvis. Blood flow is also at risk when you cross your legs. Your knees should be at a 90 degree angle, with both feet placed firmly on the ground. However, it is ok to slightly cross the ankles if this makes you feel more comfortable. Try not to lean when crossing the ankles as this could cause the body to tilt to one side and put the spine in an uncomfortable position.
5) Desk Items
It is important to consider the location of the items on your desk when you are trying to figure out what is causing your back pain. If you constantly reach for items on your desk, this could be a major contributor to your discomfort. Instead of placing items all over your desk, put only the essential ones close to you. An example of an essential item would be a pen or a phone charger. Everything that you do not use regularly should be put away into a drawer. Some people invest in a swivel or rolling chair in order to move around easier and not over extend their body. The goal is to make your space work for you so you don’t have to work around your space. You may also save yourself some frustration if your items are neatly organized next time you are looking for something.
6) Monitor Height
You may think you are doing everything right to protect you neck and back but for some reason you are still experiencing pain. You have the best chair on the market, you never use your cell phone, and you are constantly moving yet you always find yourself in pain at the end of the day. One of the most overlooked reasons for neck and back pain is the height on the computer monitor at a desk. It is important that the computer you are using is at eye level and does not cause the head to tilt down. You may want to consider lowering your chair, raising the desk, or buying a stand to put your computer on. This will alleviate the pressure on your shoulder and neck, helping you to feel like a new person.
Do you find yourself constantly squinting at your computer monitor? This is usually an indication that new glasses are needed. People who are unable to see the computer screen tend to lean their bodies towards the computer. This leaning can cause upper body pain due to improper posture. Straining your eyes can also lead to headaches and more discomfort. The proper position when you sit in a chair is to sit fully at the front of the chair or all the way in the back. Sitting in the middle of the seat will cause you to slouch and tilt forward. If you believe your slouching to be due to trouble seeing, then glasses may be a viable solution. Avoid the headaches and back pain by going to an ophthalmologist.
8) Phone Cradling
It is estimated that 50% of office workers suffer from chronic neck pain. One of the biggest contributors to this is their phone. Most people pin the phone between their neck and shoulder out of habit; it keeps your hands free and allows you to multitask. While this can be a time saver, it could be doing serious damage to your neck. The neck is not made to be tilted for an extended period of time. For people who spend hours on the phone with their head tilted, it is not surprising that their neck hurts after work. Instead try holding your phone with your hand and keeping your neck straight. The best option is to put it on speakerphone or on a Bluetooth device. Speakerphone and Bluetooth lets you multitask and complete other work while continuing to talk on the phone, all while maintain proper neck posture.
9) Cell Phone
We all do it, check our phones every five minutes to make sure we are always up-to-date. While phones may be convenient and entertaining, they can also lead to serious upper back pain. People who are constantly on their phones to text, read emails, or play apps tend to experience back and neck pain. The reason using your phone causes pain is due to the positon people maintain. Most people move the head down to look at the phone which strains the neck and increase the weight of the head. As the head tilts down the weight put onto the neck and back increases. Instead of using your phone to check every email and text message, consider using a laptop or desk monitor and save your phone for phone calls only.