While the back makes it possible to sit, walk and even play, poor routines such as not taking breaks when seated at your desk can easily lead to back pain. When not corrected early enough, poor back health can lead to lifelong problems.
Keeping a healthy back entails taking frequent breaks, exercising, proper lifting routines, and generally healthy living. Standing at least once per hour when working at your desk is the simplest of routines you need to adhere to. Also, the correct sitting posture goes a long way in keeping back pain at bay.
We endeavored to gather all the aspects of ensuring a healthy back at work and in life as a whole in this article. You might be surprised how some of the most simple approaches are what you’ve been needing to fix your back.
What To Do For A Healthy Back At Work
With findings from the NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) pointing to low back pain being the main case of job-related disability, proper care of the back is paramount to your overall wellbeing. Some of the aspects to consider include the following:
1. Take Frequent Breaks
No matter how vital or urgent your job is, always take a break at least once every hour. If your job entails lots of sitting, get up and do a little stretch every hour. If you spend time on your feet, sit down for a few minutes every hour.
The tough thing with this routine is that most us take breaks only when we get tired or it’s the official time for a break. It’s also naturally difficult to know how long you’ve been sitting. You can thus ensure your breaks are taken each time you notice the clock has moved into the next hour. If you have an Apple Watch or other fitness wearable, set a remind to move around each hour.
Changing sitting positions can also reduce accumulated pressure in one parts of the body. All it takes is a simple movement here and there to buy yourself some time at your desk. At best, change sitting positions every 30 minutes.
2. Learn the Correct Sitting Posture
When seated at your desk, have the right back support with either a chair with built-in lumbar support or a lumbar pillow (or roll). You then sit upright with your back between 90° and 135° from the horizontal plane.
Adjust the height of the seat such that your thighs are parallel to the floor and your feet are placed flat unto the floor. Your hands should form 90 degrees at the elbows with the forearms parallel to the floor.
Avoid leaning too much in front as it strains your neck. Rather, have the top of the monitor level with your eyes so that you just move the eyes on the screen and not the head. If you’re using more than one monitor, position them such that your straight gaze is at the center of the area created by the monitors for ease of reaching content with the eyes.
When seated, remove any solid items from your back pockets such as wallets or phones as they cause major damage to the back by exerting uneven pressure on your lower back.
When standing up, avoid leaning forward at the hip area as you get up. Instead, move to the front of the seat with your arms and legs then get up straight.
3. Know the Correct Standing Posture
If your work entails a lot of standing, or if you have a standing desk, knowing and practicing the correct standing position is important in preventing pain in the back.
The correct standing posture requires that there be a straight and perpendicular line running from your ears, shoulders, hips and ankles. This will be aided by the right type of shoes with flat ones being favored over high-heeled ones.
Have a step-up for a foot when working in a standing position. If you’ve been to bars or restaurants serving food and drinks to people standing up straight, you know there’s a metal bar at the counters for putting one foot on. This relieves pressure from the back as you switch between the two feet.
4. Use Mobile Devices Correctly
If you’re to use a mobile device at work, sit up and hold it at eye or chest level to reduce the need to crane your neck. If you can, use a handsfree device to avoid holding the device to your ear. You can also have a stand on your desk to hold your mobile devices upwards.
One mistake noted with the use of mobile phones is that of holding the phone between your eye and shoulder for extended periods of time. This occurs due to the need to free the hands while on call. Getting a headset help you avoid this position which has a high chance of damaging your neck.
5. Work Out Regularly
There’s no better way to reduce and even do away with back pain than through regular exercise. With exercise, you get to stretch, strengthen and rejuvenate your back and the muscles surrounding it. You’ll also be healthier in general which is an added advantage to having good health.
Ensure you exercise at least 3 days in a week for 30 minutes in each session. This can range from gym sessions to home exercises with walking, running and aerobics being enough to maintain your back’s mobility. Having a strong core is also good in keeping your back in good health.
Even when you have back pain, light and regulated exercise will help you get rid of back pain. In most cases, the doctor will advise that you slowly introduce the back to regular exercise to restore its mobility after a back injury.
Working out and having the right diet also help prevent osteoporosis which is a condition in which your bones become brittle and generally weak. This is a cause for a lot of bone fractures.
When working out, ensure you also follow the right form of each exercise to prevent injuries and derive the maximum benefits from the workout.
6. Stand Correctly at a Counter
Whether you’re buying something from the office cafe or you’re the one behind the cafe counter, the correct standing position needs to be known and practiced to reduce strain on the back.
You should adapt a wide stance while leaning on the stomach on the edge of the counter. This lowers your body and prevents leaning forward. You should also have the right shoes which are preferably flat. Keep your head held up straight to reduce strain on the shoulders.
7. Learn Correct Lifting
While you can use machines to lift most items, a few are to be lifted with hands. The rim of papers, bottled water for the dispenser and other items you can easily handle fall into this category.
To avoid hurting your back as you lift, focus on lifting with your legs rather than your back muscles. Basically, you squat, lift the items off the ground then use your thigh muscles to straighten yourself up. The same procedure is followed when putting down something you’re carrying.
Aside from that, avoid twisting when you’re carrying something with a significant weight. Even with the right lifting procedure, keep your motions low and avoid jerking and sudden movements as they may injure you.
As you carry the load, ensure there are no obstacles in the way and you’re keeping the load as close to your body as possible. Also, only carry objects you know you can carry without too much strain.
8. Keep a Healthy Lifestyle
This includes eating the right foods and generally watching your body. Having too much weight is a strain on your back and the rest of the body as the organs struggle to support the body as a whole. For example, it’ll be hard keeping a straight back with excess weight in the belly.
9. Drive in the Right Sitting Position
As you drive to and from work, ensure your seat has support for your back to prevent back pain. Adjust the seat such that it has the right height and distance from the pedals and steering wheel for you. For long trips, take frequent breaks.
With most modern cars having heated seats, turn on the heat for your seat as it helps dissipate the strain in your back.
10. Stop Smoking
Smoking has various health implications none of which is desirable. Besides causing cancers and respiratory issues, smoking also reduces the supply of blood to the spine. This leads to the degeneration of your vertebrae disks which is a health issue very difficult to reverse once it sets in. The coughing from smoking can also cause back pain.
11. Sleep Enough
Sleep can be wrongfully viewed as secondary especially when you’re on a tight schedule. However, sleep has many benefits among them restoring your mind and the back. This is because hydrating fluid flows into the back when you sleep enough. This rests and restores the back ready for the next working cycle.
You should have a mattress with medium to high firmness as very soft ones strain the back as you sleep and will only lead to eventual damage rather than restoration.
12. Drink Enough Water
Proper hydration will ensure that your body lubricates the joints and other parts of the body such as the area between your vertebrae disks in the back. It also carries away any wastes that may build up in the body making for a healthy body.
Without proper hydration, you run the risk of herniated disks, sciatica, carpal tunnel and other conditions. Some of these conditions occur when there isn’t enough lubrication between your vertebral disks to the extent that the disks misalign causing pain and other health conditions.
For an adult, the recommended amount of water per day is 8 glasses. Ideally, you should drink water equivalent to half your body weight each day.
13. See a Doctor if the Need Arises
If you’ve been having back pain and have done the right thing about it and the pain keeps persisting, it’s time to see a doctor about it. It could be a serious underlying issue that needs professional help.
With the right approach to taking care of your back, you’ll not only limit momentary back pain, but will also do away with lifelong issues with your back. Keep in mind that most of the routines described here have benefits for the whole body and not the back alone.