What Causes Back Pain at Work?

In this article, we’ll discuss several causes of back pain office workers experience. We’ll break down the four most common causes and then explain steps you can take to improve the underlying conditions of each cause. 

Four common causes of back pain for office workers

The most common causes of back pain include

Poor posture: Office workers who sit for long periods of time may develop poor posture, which can cause strain on the back muscles and lead to pain.

Sedentary lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle, where an individual spends most of their day sitting, can cause back pain due to inactivity.

Poor ergonomics: If an office worker’s workstation is not set up correctly, it can cause strain on the back muscles and lead to pain. This can include a poorly positioned chair or desk, or incorrect computer screen height.

Stress: Stress and tension can cause muscle tension and lead to back pain.

How to improve posture at an office job

Posture has a clear link to back pain — in fact, simple postural awareness is directly associated with chronic pain, where improvements to awareness of your posture is directly associated with reduced spinal and shoulder pain

There are several ways to improve posture at an office job:

  1. Use a chair with good lumbar support: A chair with good lumbar support can help keep the spine in a neutral position, reducing strain on the back muscles.
  2. Match your chair and desk height: Make sure your chair and desk are at the correct height so that you can sit with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Take breaks: Get up and move around at least once an hour to stretch and relieve muscle tension.
  4. Use a footrest: If your feet don’t reach the ground, use a footrest to help maintain good posture.
  5. Stand up: If you have the option, try standing up while working to take some of the pressure off your back.
  6. Practice good posture: Make a conscious effort to sit up straight and keep your shoulders relaxed. Avoid slumping or hunching over your computer.
  7. Use a lumbar roll: A lumbar roll can help support the natural curve of your lower back, improving your posture.
  8. Use a standing desk: If you have the option, consider using a standing desk to take some of the pressure off your back.

How to get more exercise during work

Studies suggest that our mental energy is directly linked to our physical health. Making exercise a regular part of your weekly routine can lower stress, which directly contributes to back pain. 

There are several ways for office workers to get more exercise during work:

  1. Take breaks and walk around: Go for a short walk during your breaks to get some light exercise and fresh air.
  2. Use a mini trampoline or treadmill desk: If your workplace allows it, consider using a mini trampoline or treadmill desk to get some low-impact exercise while working.
  3. Do some stretching: Take breaks to stretch and do some simple exercises like squats or lunges to get your muscles moving.
  4. Use resistance bands: Use resistance bands to do some light strength training during your breaks.
  5. Take the stairs: Instead of using the elevator, take the stairs to get some extra steps in and get your heart rate up.
  6. Go for a bike ride or run during lunch: If you have the time, go for a bike ride or run during your lunch break to get some more vigorous exercise.
  7. Join a fitness class: Some workplaces offer fitness classes during lunch breaks or after work, so consider joining one to get some extra exercise.

How to improve ergonomics of your office workstation

To improve the ergonomics of your office workstation, you can follow these steps:

  1. Adjust your chair: Make sure your chair is adjusted to the correct height so that your feet are flat on the ground and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. The chair should also have good lumbar support.
  2. Adjust your desk height: Your desk should be at a height that allows your forearms to be parallel to the ground when you are typing.
  3. Adjust your computer monitor: The top of your computer monitor should be at or slightly below eye level.
  4. Use a keyboard tray: A keyboard tray can help you keep your wrists in a neutral position and reduce strain on your wrists and arms.
  5. Use a document holder: A document holder can help you keep your documents at eye level, reducing the need to look down and strain your neck.
  6. Use a mouse pad: A mouse pad can help keep your wrist in a neutral position and reduce strain on your wrist and arm.
  7. Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time: Try to vary your position throughout the day to avoid straining any one muscle group.

How to reduce stress at work

According to the Demand-Control-Support model, stress at work is caused by high demands, low control, and low social support. The model suggests that reducing demands, increasing control, and increasing social support can all help to reduce stress at work.

Consider the following techniques, strategies, and approaches to mindfulness that can help you reduce stress at work. 

  1. Take breaks: Take breaks throughout the day to step away from your work and relax for a few minutes.
  2. Practice mindfulness: Take a few minutes each day to focus on your breath and clear your mind. This can help reduce stress and improve focus.
  3. Get enough sleep: Make sure you are getting enough sleep to help your body and mind recover from the demands of work.
  4. Set boundaries: Set boundaries with your work and make sure you are taking time for yourself and your personal life.
  5. Organize your workspace: A cluttered workspace can cause stress, so make sure you keep your desk organized and free of unnecessary items.
  6. Seek support: If you are feeling overwhelmed, seek support from a coworker, supervisor, or a mental health professional.
  7. Practice relaxation techniques: Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress.

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