There are plenty of perks that come with having your own desk. You get to purchase pretty desk accessories, hang up pictures of your cat, and keep all your papers organized (or scattered) right within arm's reach. But there are also quite a few negatives to being stuck at a desk — namely, dealing with back pain at work.
Of course it's possible to get some pretty horrendous back pain from jobs that require you to stand, or move around all day. But if you're currently hunched over a keyboard, or stuck in a stiff office chair, then you know exactly how desk life can be a special kind of torture.
This type of back pain comes from hours spent sitting in the same position, and it can hurt — a lot. As Jamie Price, Wellness Expert & Co-founder of the the award-winning Stop, Breathe & Think meditation app, explains in an email to Bustle, "Our bodies were designed to move! Sitting all day at work puts pressure on your muscles and spine, especially if you’re hunched over in front of a computer. When you slouch it can overstretch the ligaments in your spine and cause strain."
Back pain can be, well, a pain. But it can also really start to mess things up, if you're not careful. So read on for some ways to prevent back pain at work. And here's hoping those eight hours in the office can be a little bit comfier.
1. Quit Your Slouchy Ways
Take a second and check your posture. How horrible is it, on a scale from one to 10? (If you're like me, you're probably a 10 on the slouchy scale — and that's not good.) "It’s important that you sit with your back straight," says Price. "A posture that allows your body to be straight and relaxed, but not stiff, will produce a natural flow of breath and circulation, which will allow the mind to be calm and focused." And your back pain-free.
2. Choose The Perfect Office Chair
This is the thing you'll sit on for a good eight hours a day, so make sure your office chair is as ideal as possible. "Pick one that allows your lower back to rest against a lumbar support," noted lifestyle writer Susan Hall on Health. "Then tilt the back of the chair so it’s very slightly reclined."
3. Keep Your Mouse Close By
If you're constantly stretching across your desk to use your mouse, think about creating a better setup. "Ideally, it should be placed right next to your keyboard so you don’t overreach or twist your shoulder, arm, or wrist when clicking," said Hall. Just one more back pain you won't have to deal with.
4. For The Love Of God, Get Up And Move
I know, I know... you look so productive sitting at your desk for all day long. But do your back a favor, and get up and move. As Price says, "A good rule of thumb is to move around for about 10 minutes every hour. It seems like a lot, but it can be as simple as standing up and doing a quick stretch."
5. Don't Do That Phone/Shoulder Thing
It's natural to rest the phone on your shoulder while you chat and type at the same time. And yet this can put an incredible strain on your neck muscles — leading to back and shoulder pain. So if you can, put the phone on speaker, or get a headset, according to an article on the health website MayoClinic.org. The more you can avoid straining, the better.
6. Move Around Whilst Sitting
Yes, there are proper ways to sit in a chair. But don't be afraid to move around, either. "Experiment with different ways to hold your body, head, and shoulders until you find a comfortable, balanced way to sit," Price says. She suggests rolling your head from left to right, gently curving your spine, and leaning from side to side. This will help you find a comfortable position and keep your back from getting too stiff.
7. Be One With Your Desk
Make sure your desk chair is the right distance away from your computer, desk, and keyboard. "Your torso should be about an arm’s length away from the monitor, which should be two to three inches above eye level," said Hall. This setup should keep everything properly aligned, so you don't strain yourself.
8. Don't Sit On Your Cell
It's not just guys who stuff things — wallets, phones, etc. — into their back pockets. Ladies do it, too. And sitting on a lumpy back pocket can really mess up your back. "When one cheek is higher than the other you end up twisting the pelvis," explained ergonomics expert Chris Adams on About.com. "The spine becomes misaligned. Then your shoulders slump. And you really start to hurt after that."
9. Resist The Urge To Cross Your Legs
If I'm not slouching, my other go-to seated position is with my legs crossed. It feels comfy, and works well for my addiction to cute skirts. But, as it turns out, this position does nothing for back health. "Sitting cross-legged makes it difficult to keep your spine straight and shoulders squared, and you risk over-stretching the muscles around the pelvis ... So uncross and relax," Hall explained.
10. Do Some Desk-Friendly Yoga Positions
Apart from moving about throughout the day, might I also suggest doing some full-on desk yoga? There are all sorts of stretches you can do at work — no yoga mat required. Think about doing some quick warriors poses, or a forward fold. You'll be stretching out all those tired muscles, thus alleviating aches and pains.
11. Keep Moving After Work
After being sedentary all day, the last you thing you want to do is go home and plop onto the couch. (OK, maybe you want to do this, but you shouldn't.) Instead, you should keep moving to undo that sedentary position you were in all day, according to blogger Greg Voakes on HuffingtonPost.com. So stop by the gym, or go for a quick walk.
Whatever movement you're able to add to your day, I'm positive your back will thank you.
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