How often lately have you seen news stories about the benefits of finding the right ergonomic desk setup, the hazards of sitting all day, and how “tech neck” is causing major pain for an increasing number of workers? With all of that being thrown our way, it probably feels like working a desk job is slowly destroying our society, one back at a time. If you’re one of the millions stuck at a desk and working at a computer, it’s time to take work wellness into your own hands. Try these tips to minimize the risk of back pain and other chronic pain issues caused by working at a desk.
What’s Wrong With Desk Work?
The human body was not made to sit still for several hours a day. It may surprise you to learn that working at a desk is considered just as unhealthy as smoking when it comes to effects on the body. The issue? Sitting for long periods can cause several effects throughout the body, including weakened muscles and tight joints, back strain, an increased risk of heart disease, and a shorter life expectancy. Taking care of yourself at work is of vital importance because something as seemingly simple as poor posture can lead to chronic back pain, but it can also lead to issues like poor circulation and digestion — both of which can have detrimental long-term effects on your health.
Not only can sitting for long periods have some major health impacts, but it’s also important to note that studies have shown that adding in some exercise a few times a week isn’t enough to combat those issues. Whether work is the cause of ongoing back pain or other issues, now is the time to take additional measures to care for yourself at work.
What Can You Do?
Caring for your health at work can be a restrictive challenge. From needing a doctor’s note for a stand-up desk to finding the time to get up and move, a desk-centric job is really not conducive to caring for your health. Fortunately, there are a range of things you can do to alleviate the stress on your body and make positive changes. Try:
Start With Better Posture
It may seem like a small change, but improving your posture can have big effects. When you slouch, your back, neck, and shoulder muscles all have to work harder. This can lead to chronic back pain because the strain causes muscles to tighten, which limits range of motion and often presses on nerve clusters. More than that, poor posture can also lead to digestion and circulation issues.
There are a few key things you can do to improve your posture at work. First, start by setting your desk up in an ergonomic manner. You may want to meet with a chiropractor for personalized guidance, but the basics include:
- Sitting with your knees and hips at a 90-degree angle — and no more crossing your legs.
- A desk height that places your elbows at a 90-degree angle. You may also want wrist pads for your keyboard and mouse to avoid wrist collapse while working.
- The bottom of your computer screen(s) should be even with eye level to limit how much time you look down.
- If you have multiple screens, set them up evenly in front of you — and don’t forget to switch focus back and forth repeatedly so you don’t look to one side or the other all day.
In addition to those measures, helpful items like a lumbar pillow or footstool can go a long way toward helping reduce the pressure on your joints and spine while you sit.
Being totally sedentary is bad for both muscles and joints. The Mayo Clinic recommends moving every 30 minutes. Unfortunately, most work schedules aren’t conducive to taking a lap around the building twice an hour. As much as possible, find ways to move around throughout the day to help break the sedentary effects. Take the long way when you need to use the restroom or grab a glass of water. Invest in a wireless headset so you can pace while talking on the phone. Take the stairs whenever possible. Arrange for a stand-up desk — and connect with your local chiropractor for help if your company requires a doctor’s note to provide you with one. Whatever the case, the more frequently you can build movement into your schedule, the better it can be for back pain relief and your overall health.
Focus On Fitness
Adding in frequent movements, even leisurely ones, at work can go a long way toward helping stave off issues from working at a desk. However, that’s typically not enough on its own. Studies suggest getting at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise everyday to counter the effects of sitting at a desk all day. The important part is that you’re moving and providing at least a moderate challenge to your body, so the way you choose to exercise is up to you. Mix in a combination of strength training, cardio, and stretching for a well-balanced routine.
When you experience chronic back pain, it can feel like your options are limited. While any of the above suggestions can be good first steps toward less pain and better health, everyone’s bodies are different. It can be a great idea to work with your physical therapist or chiropractor to get recommendations specific to your needs. If you already attend physical therapy sessions, ask about exercises you can do at your desk to support your health. If back pain is an ongoing concern, it’s also a good idea to start with a chiropractic assessment to see what’s going on in your body and what needs help. Both chiropractic and physical therapy sessions can provide you with the tools you need for natural pain relief and strength building to handle your back pain.
If working at a desk all day causes you pain, start by connecting with Senara Health and Healing Center & Spa in Peoria. We offer everything from physical therapy and chiropractic care to massage therapy and acupuncture so we can develop the right back pain treatment for your needs. Call today to schedule your consultation.