In today’s fast-paced world, many of us find ourselves spending the majority of our day in one place, whether it’s hunched over a desk, seated in a vehicle, or repeatedly lifting heavy objects. These daily routines, often characterised by poor workplace ergonomics, can significantly impact our wellbeing, particularly our back health.
Back pain is a widespread issue that affects countless individuals worldwide. It not only causes discomfort and inconvenience but can also lead to more severe and chronic conditions. As we navigate our demanding lives, it’s crucial to prioritize the health of our backs. Back Care Awareness Week (3-7 October), organised by the BackCare Charity, aims to highlight the importance of understanding, preventing, and managing back pain.
Keep reading as we provide practical tips to help you take better care of your back while working.
Common factors contributing to back pain at work
- Poor ergonomics: Prolonged periods of sitting without proper support can lead to various back problems, including lower back pain and stiffness. Additionally, it can have far-reaching consequences on our overall health, potentially contributing to conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Moreover, discomfort and pain can be a major distraction, affecting productivity.
- Sedentary behavior: Whether it’s sitting at a desk, driving, or standing for extended periods, sedentary behavior weakens the muscles supporting the spine, leading to discomfort and pain.
- Manual handling: Jobs involving heavy or awkward lifting without proper training and equipment can result in back injuries.
- Stress: High levels of workplace stress can lead to muscle tension, exacerbating existing back problems.
Prioritising your back while working
Preventing and managing back pain requires a proactive approach. Here are some essential steps you can take:
1. How to take care of your back at your workstation
Chair: Your chair should be adjustable in terms of height, backrest angle, and armrest height. Ensure that it supports the natural curve of your spine. If your chair lacks lumbar support, you can use a rolled-up towel for added support. Keep your feet flat on the ground, forming a 90° angle at your hips and knees. If your feet don’t comfortably reach the floor, consider using a footrest.
Desk: Adjust your desk height so that your forearms are parallel to the ground when typing. Organise your desk so that frequently used items are within easy reach, minimizing the need for repetitive stretching.
Monitor: Position your monitor at eye level to reduce the strain on your neck. Ensure proper lighting to reduce screen glare, which can strain your eyes and affect your posture.
Keyboard and mouse: Keep your keyboard and mouse close to you to avoid straining your arms and shoulders.
Take regular breaks: Stand up, stretch, and walk around briefly during short breaks. This helps relieve pressure on your spine and improves circulation.
Use the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away. This simple practice relieves pressure on your spine and eyes while providing a refreshing micro-break.
2. Take Regular Breaks
Driving: If you’re on the road for an extended period, stop safely every two hours to walk around and do some stretches. Avoid drive-throughs as they discourage you from leaving your vehicle.
Repetitive tasks: Every 30-60 minutes, take a short break and stretch. If possible, change tasks to relieve muscles from repetitive strain.
3. Proper lifting techniques
When lifting heavy objects, bend your knees and keep the object close to your body. Avoid twisting your spine while lifting.
4. Stress management
Practice stress-reducing techniques such as deep breathing exercises to relax tense muscles. Try this: close your eyes, breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and release for 4 seconds. Repeat as needed.
- The NHS provides extensive information on relieving back pain, including instructional videos on back stretches.
- The BackCare charity offers a toolkit with free downloadable content for your organization.
Reduce the risk of back pain in your organisation
Cardinus Risk Management offers essential support for back pain prevention. Our award-winning Healthy Working program provides a customisable DSE risk assessment and eLearning for every employee. Healthy Working identifies employees at risk of suffering back pain while working and those who are already experiencing back pain. Once an employee completes the Healthy Working program they will be provided with tasks to minimise the risk of muscular skeletal injuries and improve their health and wellbeing. Find out more about Healthy Working.