Written by: Jenny Smith
Back pain? Many many people now spend most of their working week sitting in front of computers. Habits like slouching and crossing legs can overtime lead to aches and pains that can lead to problematic back problems which can then lead to other physical difficulties as the body tries to compensate. Long term physical pain can result in emotional distress like anxiety or depression and before you know it there are a host of difficulties caused by something that is relatively simple to prevent.
Check out your chair
One of the most basic things to be aware of is that your chair is set at the correct level. Your knees should be level with your hips. If your chair cannot adjust to support this posture use a foot rest to raise the levels of your feet / knees. If you are very tall and have been given a chair that is too short and not adjustable you need to raise the matter with your manager.
When you are sitting properly your back will have a natural S curve and the lower back area particularly needs to be supported. If your back is not supported in your sitting position then your back muscles will have to work loads harder.
Crossing your legs can cut off circulation and can also lead to hip problems. Even if it feels strange and abnormal to do so, have both feet flat on the floor or on the foot rest if your legs do not reach that far. Sitting like this helps your whole physical system to maintain a stance of relaxation and openness which will support your nervous system to stay calm and your digestion to work effectively.
Make everything easily accessible
Simple sounding things like having the equipment that you use regularly close by and easily accessible can make a big difference to the way you twist and turn your body when searching for things. Take regular time out and tidy your work area to reflect your commitment to looking after yourself during your work time.
The way you use your computer is also very linked to how your back feels. Our arms are strongly joined to our backs by very strong muscles and if we tense or stress any part of our arms then the pain can be transferred up across our shoulders. Make sure your the top of the screen is level with your eye gaze and that the monitor an arms length away. If it is too high or low you will be overusing the muscles in your neck whilst you are working which in time can lead to headaches.
Repetitive strain injury
Keeping your wrists straight as you type is important to avoid repetitive strain injury. Some people like to use a wrist rest for support and by having your mouse close to you you can also avoid awkward bending. During breaks between typing rest your wrists on the table between you and your keyboard.
If you are on the phone a lot, it is worth considering using a handset so that you can avoid straining muscles in your neck by craning over the receiver or cradling it to your head as your write notes from the conversation!
Back pain can be avoidable
As with anything that involves long periods of time, taking regular breaks is good medicine. Have a walk around. do some gentle stretches to help prevent your muscles tightening into painful knots and take some deep breaths to send your body soothing messages. If you feel that you are too busy to take a break it is even more important that you do so as times of mental pressure can lead to increased physical tension. No deadline is worth putting your back at risk! There will always be other projects but your back needs to last your lifetime!