Everyone suffering from back pain has the exact same move - one hand behind your back, shoulders arched and a look on your face that screams pure discomfort. Why does the worst pain on the human body have to be in such an awkward place?
To help you avoid this terrible affliction we've put together 4 tips from our team of expert physios that will help prevent back pain before it even begins.
Posture at Your Desk
Most of us go through life with bad posture - we slouch, slump and twist all day every day. It’s a common problem and breaking bad habits can be really difficult. With a few minor tweaks you can sit more comfortably and minimize your overall risk of back pain.
Sit up tall with your back firmly against the curve of the chair. By sitting tall you are accentuating the natural curve in your spine. When we slouch our back has to deal with an uneven distribution of weight which can cause back pain. Plant your feet firmly on the ground and place your knees a comfortable distance apart.
This further distributes the weight from your spine and can actually be quite comfortable. If needed you can tilt you chair back but make sure to keep the same position as before and try not to fall back into a slouch.
Preventing back pain is all about working with your environment. Your monitor, your mouse, your phone and even your keyboard all play a crucial role in preventing back pain at the office.
Adjust your monitor so that your neck is neutral. Position the monitor so that the top frame is an inch or two above your seated eye level. Finally, make sure to sit at arm’s length from your monitor while maintaining your neck position.
Adjust the tilt of your keyboard based on your sitting position. Use the keyboard tray mechanism, or keyboard feet, to adjust the tilt. The idea is to maintain your neutral position. With this is mind try and use as little wrist movement as possible. When we move our wrists the rest of our body tends to move and deregulates our posture. It’s difficult but we can do it with a little practice.
The silent killers of our desktop essentials are the phone and the mouse. The truth is that one single movement won’t cause any damage, but over a long period of time these movement can lead to a repetitive strain injury (RSI). RSI is an injury sustained to a muscle or joint by using a singular movement repeatedly and is common in the work place. Try to be aware of repetitive tasks, if work requires you to be on the phone, request a hands free headset and tell them The Physio Company sent you!
"Correct execution of everyday movements and postures is critical for avoiding the proverbial iceberg coming up ahead. Ongoing investment in your daily posture and movement patterns will ensure that you maintain appropriate joint alignment and muscle length reducing the risk of degenerative changes such as osteoarthritis"
- Warwick Gordon, Clinical Director at The Physio Company
Change The Way You Commute
You’d think by now we’d have stopped sneaking the extra 5 minutes in bed. That we’d have learnt it’s not worth the resulting rush and stress. But that snooze button is just too tempting! Unfortunately we can’t help you beat the snooze button, but here are a couple of tips to help reduce the chance of back pain during your commute.
Whether you are travelling by bus, train or car try to intermittently roll your shoulders. When we sit or stand for long periods of time we naturally begin to slouch. By rolling your shoulders you’ll not only become more alert but you’ll relieve the strain off your back.
It’s difficult not to overload your bag. The things you need for work are always essential, laptops, cables, different shoes, water bottles, lunch, the list is endless. When you can try and avoid this, leave some essentials in the office and be frugal with what you really need for the day.
When you can, try use two strapped bags so that the load is distributed over both shoulders evenly. If you carry a satchel try to alternate the shoulder you carry it on on and always place the strap across your chest so that the weight is distributed evenly. With briefcases, be aware of your posture, don’t distribute weight unevenly and alternate between right and left.
Stretch Out That Stress
Stress creates muscle tension that over time contorts and contracts and causes very painful back pain.
After a stressful day the only thing you want to do is lay on the couch and relax. Unfortunately this does not properly alleviate the tightness in your muscles and can cause problems in the future. To prevent this, hold off from the couch for 5 minutes, do a quick stretch (anything from a Lumbar Extension to touching your toes) and make sure the back is loosened. Then dive back onto the couch and start enjoying that new series everyone in the office has been talking about.
You can’t have 100% perfect posture all day but good posture doesn’t stop the second you walk out the office door. If you are going to camp out on the couch for a couple of hours make sure you set yourself into the arm rest, use pillows to help support and prop arms and back to make life a little more comfortable.
If you need any help along the way, we've got the experts to help! You can book an appointment with one of our chartered physiotherapists in any of our many locations around Ireland.