Most people experience back or neck pain at some point during their lives. It is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work days¹.
In today’s world, with more sedentary lifestyles, the number of cases back and neck pain is rising. One factor behind this is poor posture. Typical postural mistakes include: positioning your head too far forward, rounding your shoulders, slouching so you lose the normal curve in the lower back, and lifting incorrectly.
Why do you need good posture?
By adopting correct posture, you help to keep the many intricate structures in your back and spine healthy. A healthy back has three natural curves: an inward curve at your neck, an outward curve at your upper back, and an inward curve at your lower back. Correct posture supports these natural curves and puts minimal stress on your joints.
What problems are caused by poor posture?
Poor posture can contribute to the development of back pain and other spinal disorders. Not maintaining good posture can put strain and pull on your muscles, and stress on your spine. Over time, the stress of poor posture can cause musculoskeletal imbalances in your spine. This can sometimes lead to constricted nerves and blood vessels, and problems with muscles, discs, and joints. Poor posture is linked to increased incidences and levels of back and neck pain.
Tips for better posture in the workplace
It's important to take care of your spine no matter what kind of job you do. If your work involves sitting a lot and using a computer, here are some tips to help you sit correctly and reduce your risk of back and neck pain. By making some simple changes, you could find that your back is much more comfortable.
1. Match your chair to your body
Choose a chair that offers lumbar support to your natural spinal curves. Back support is especially important if you spend many hours sitting in an office chair or standing throughout the day. It’s best to have a chair that is easily adjustable so you can change the height, back position, tilt, and arm rests. Your chair wants to be at a height where your feet lie flat on the floor or on a footrest and your knees are at 90-degree angles. Adjust armrests so your arms gently rest on them, your elbows are by the side of your body and your arm forms an L-shape at your elbow joint, and you can use the keyboard with your wrists and forearms straight and level with the floor.
2. Make sure you take regular breaks and move around
Long periods of sitting in one place and position is not good for your back. So, you should try to step away from your desk regularly, ideally every half an hour. Set a timer on your computer for a stand and stretch break every 30 minutes. Frequent short breaks and changing position give your muscles time to relax. By moving your feet regularly, you keep the blood flowing.You could make a drink, visit a colleague in person instead of emailing them, stretch your shoulders out or, take a short walk at lunch time.
3. Sit up straight
Maintain good posture by sitting upright with good lumbar support from the base of your chair, your shoulder blades by your backrest, and that your head aligned over your body to avoid neck strain. Don’t slouch in your seat, hunch over your keyboard or cradle your phone between your shoulder and your ear. If you spend a lot of time on the phone, try exchanging your handset for a headset.
4. Reposition computer equipment
You should have your screen directly in front of you, about an arm's length away, with your keyboard and mouse within easy reach. You shouldn’t need to strain your eyes or lean forward to see the screen, and you shouldn’t have to stretch for your equipment. This position will allow you to rest your wrists between bouts of typing. You may like to use a wrist rest to keep your wrists straight and at the same level as the keys.
5. Consider standing whilst working
Either using sit-stand desks or just doing some work on a high table or counter can reduce your time sitting and re-adjust your posture, as well as boosting your productivity and burning more calories!You could also suggest meetings where you all stand and even walk laps whilst having discussions.
6. Lift carefully
Improper lifting can cause injury to the muscles, joints, and discs in your back that results in back pain. Ensure you lift properly by: keeping your back straight whilst lifting and bending your hips rather than your lower back, keep objects you are lifting as close to your body as possible and, lead with your hips when changing direction to avoid placing strain on your back.
Characteristics of back pain caused by poor posture
• Your back pain is worse at certain times of the day.
• Your pain starts in your neck and moves down into your upper and lower back.
• Your pain subsides when you switch positions while sitting or standing.
• You experience sudden back pain when you start a new job or use a new office chair.