5 Ergonomic Tips to Help with Back Pain

Topics:

Woman holding her lower back while sitting at a desk

In today’s digital world, people spend more than 10 hours a day in front of a screen. We’re often switching between a TV, computer, smartphone or tablet in our personal time and professional lives.

Screen time can soar if you work at a computer during the day—and let’s face it, most of us do. Sitting at a desk all day can eventually lead to pain or discomfort in your neck or back. Here are some tips to help you relieve back or neck pain if you work at a desk.

Motion is medicine 

Moving is a key part of protecting your spine throughout the day. Go for a walk during a break and lunch–don’t be tempted to eat your lunch at your desk–get up and move!

There are many new gadgets available for purchase that can help improve posture or remind you to move. Such products encourage healthy posture by buzzing after an extended period of iPod or tablet use. There is no published data on this yet and it is not marketed as a medical device, but the idea seems promising! 

The alarm on your phone or computer can also serve as a great tool throughout your busy day. Aim to get up and move every half an hour at work. Whether you just stand and stretch or need a water refill, small breaks throughout the day can alleviate neck and back pain greatly.

Sit-Stand work station

Back and neck pain is often attributed to a sedentary lifestyles. Changing positions frequently throughout the day is an important to addressing this pain. By allowing desk workers to easily change their position, sit-stand desks have become a workplace favorite.

Sit-stand desks allow you to go from a standing position to a sitting position with the switch of a lever. This simple movement enables your body to move and stretch, a natural inclination that promotes spine health. Shifting positions also places less pressure on the spine and enhances blood flow throughout the body.

5 ergonomic tips for work

Even with a sit-stand desk and micro-walks throughout the day, sitting is an unavoidable part of office careers. Luckily, there are many ways to arrange your work station to make your 9 to 5 life healthier and more comfortable.

  • Setting up your screen: If your computer screen is set too high or low, this could contribute to shoulder or neck fatigue at the end of a long day. The top of the screen should be set at eye level; this way you do not have to consistently look up or down
  • Ergonomic chair : Consider using a chair with a backrest that supports the curve of your lower (lumbar) back. Sit back in the chair and position your thighs horizontal to your knees at hip level. Rest your feet comfortably on the floor or on a footrest.
  • Avoid cell phone when answering emails: If possible, avoid cell phone or tablet use when answering emails. If you will be spending more than a few minutes answering an email it’s best to sit at a desk on your computer with proper posture.
  • Posture and keyboard techniques: Adjust your keyboard to a height where your elbows are bent approximately 90 degrees and your shoulders do not slump.
  • Computer Glasses: If you use progressive lenses in your glasses, a slight head tilt is needed for these glasses to function. This tilting action may be the cause of your fatigued neck. Consider asking your eye doctor for glasses that can be worn while at your desk.

Exercises at work to help neck or back pain

Trying to stretch a bit more discretely? Some highly effective stretches don’t require standing or moving around your office space. These simple movements can help alleviate your neck and back pain—all from the comfort of your own cubicle.

Finger Point:

  1. Stretch your left hand out in front of you, pointing fingers toward the floor, palm facing out.
  2. Use your right hand to increase the stretch, pulling your fingers down and toward the body.
  3. Repeat on the other side.

"Big Hug" Back Stretch:

  1. Hug your body, placing the right hand on your left shoulder and the left hand on your right shoulder.
  2. Breathe in and out, releasing the area between your shoulder blades.

Neck Retraction:

    1. Sit in a neutral position, holding your head in a normal resting position.
    2. Next, slowly glide your head backward, tucking your chin in until you have pulled your head and chin as far back as they will go. Keep your head level and do not tilt or nod your head.
    3. Hold for three to five seconds, then release. 
    4. Repeat 10 times.

If you are still struggling with back or neck pain, make an appointment with your primary care doctor, who can direct you to more specialized care if needed. You can also take our online back and neck health assessment test. 

Back and Neck Health Assessment Test

About this Blog

Keep up-to-date on the latest advancements in the musculoskeletal field, including bone, muscle and joint disease treatments, and other updates from experts at Penn Medicine. 

Date Archives

GO

Author Archives

GO
Share This Page: