If you work at your desk like hundreds of other people around the world then you probably don’t think of this as a particularly dangerous job. In fact you are highly likely to think of it as rather boring and mundane and not see any particular reason to worry about your health or things potentially going wrong. However this is actually a big mistake and while you might not be in danger of falling off any scaffolding or being hit by a low flying plane, you still do face a number of dangers that are just as real and that are actually all the more serious for being subtle and creeping up on your silently.
One of these problems is of course back pain, and this is one of the issues which we most associate with work and that is the most serious. The problem with working at a desk you see is that you spend much of the time hunched over a desk and often at awkward and painful angles. While this might not be a problem in the short term, in the long term it can lead to serious problems as you become likely to trap a nerve or as you damage the vertebrae over time.
But if you are aware of the potential problems with working in an office like back pain, and if you know how to counter them, then there are plenty of things you can do to avoid the issues. Here we will look at what those are.
Are You Sitting Comfortably?
First of all one thing you need to look into is how you are sitting and what your office set up is like. Before you start doing exercises at work, know that you can prevent the problems even better by avoiding the issue and staying comfortable and healthy in the way you sit.
It’s very much worth then getting a good chair that is supportive and that forces your back into an upright position. There should be a slight curve in your spine when you sit and you should find that this feels very natural. Meanwhile at the same time having your head upright so that your chin is slightly lifted is also important. If you don’t think your chair is supportive enough or if it’s causing you problems then speak to your manager and you should find that they find a solution quickly – this is a health and safety issue and most offices take those very seriously.
At the same time it’s very important to make sure you are consciously aware of the issue and you can work alongside a good chair to keep yourself in the right posture. Make a conscious effort every now and then of tucking your feet under the chair which will automatically make you sit more upright, of lifting your head up and of rolling your shoulders back to puff your chest out slightly.
What’s also important is that you move around from time to time and this means just literally getting up to go and speak to friends or to make a trip to the water fountain. Again you shouldn’t get told off for wasting time as your manager should be aware of the importance of stretching and moving – and they should recognize how good this is for your productivity too. In fact if you’re a manager or you want to speak to your manager then you should consider designing the office with this in mind – why have just one seating area for each member of staff for instance? Much better would be to provide a seating area with some laptops where staff can reline on bean bags or where they can sit on the sofa – and just by encouraging them to change position that way from time to time can greatly improve back health.
There are also various different exercises and stretches that you can do to keep your back limber and to avoid it from seizing up or having any problems. These can also help you to ease back ache which can be a serious distraction at work and make sitting at the desk very unpleasant.
One simple back exercise is to practice arching your back like a cat. Stand on all fours on the floor like a cat and then arch your back as high as you can as though you just saw the neighbours dog (don’t mind the stairs of your colleagues). Hold this position for a count of five and then gradually lower it and completely relax it so that it dips slightly in the middle. This exercise is good for not only exercising the muscles, but also opening up the spinal column which can give it relief from the forces of gravity that have been working on it all day and which can allow any trapped nerves to come free.
Another good exercise is to just hug your own knees and roll your back up as much as possible as you do like a possum. This is a very effective way to once again open up the spinal column and you may even hear a slight noise as you do it. If you can do this on the floor once again then it will help you to get an even better stretch and rolling on your back as you do it will massage you slightly.
Meanwhile you can also stretch your back by lying on the floor with your knees up on a chair so that they are at a right angle. This is a position which can provide a lot of relief for your spine and particularly the base of the spine making it great for sciatica and other pains – though of course it does make work a little hard so don’t be afraid to ask for some days off if the problem is that bad.
Finally you can stretch your spine out the other way by placing your hands on the small of your back and leaning backwards while curving your spine. Be careful and gentle when you do though and avoid sudden movements which can cause more problems.
Exercises With Colleagues
If you want to really fix your back then there are also a number of exercises you can do with the help of a colleague. One great one is to lie on the floor on your front so you are completely flat with your arms by your side. Now ask your colleague to push down firmly on the top of your back (around the traps area) at the same time as you breathe out. They should hold this for a couple of seconds and as you do you may hear some pops as trapped air escapes. This is great for tight shoulders and pain around the shoulder blades and serratus muscles.
Another useful one is to stand back to back with a colleague and to link arms at the elbows. Now get them to bend forward as much as possible and to pull you over their back as they do once again bending your spine which should create a slight crunching noise if all is going well. This will provide some temporary relief if you feel stiff but it’s best not to do it too often as it can become a bad habit in the end.
Note as well though that just generally stretching your limbs can be an important way to prevent back pain as your nerves run all through your body and few pains are isolated. Stretching your arms and shoulders for instance can relieve tension in the shoulder blades and traps, while you may even find that your back pain comes from simple stress and the tension that comes with this so try just relaxing and letting your muscles do the same.