Lower back pain is one of the most common causes of work absence in the UK.
There are almost 31 million working days lost every year due to back, neck, and muscle related problems.
According to the National Health Service (NHS), 80 percent of the British population will suffer with back pain at some point in their lives, and while it can be tempting to take a painkiller and just ‘get on with it’, there are many other treatments, therapies and techniques available that can help relieve the pain and prevent further episodes from happening.
The Importance of Good Posture
Sitting at a computer for prolonged periods is the primary cause of lower back pain in the workplace, and so it is essential that you adjust your chair so that supports your back, learn how to sit correctly at your workstation, and perhaps most importantly of all, get into a routine of taking short breaks away from your computer so that you can stand up, stretch your core, and give your muscles chance to relax. A little exercise by your desk will help to kick the pain away.
Preventing Lower Back Pain by Adjusting Your Chair
British businesses are required by law to provide you with a workstation chair that is stable, and both the seat and the backrest must be adjustable. When adjusting your chair to prevent back pain at work, you should ensure that the backrest supports both your lower and upper back, that your thighs are at right angles to your body, and that your feet rest comfortably on the floor.
You can use a cushion and/or footrest if it feels more comfortable, but most chiropractors recommend that you keep your feet firmly only the ground to support your back while sitting.
Sitting Correctly at Your Workstation
When you are engrossed in a project, it can be easy to slouch over your desk, but a poor seating posture can put unnecessary strain on your back. After adjusting your chair to ensure that your back is supported, you should reposition your screen so that it is approximately an arm’s length in front of you.
The screen should be at eye level to prevent neck strain, and both your keyboard and mouse should be kept close (4 – 6 inches from the edge of your desk) so that you can keep your wrists straight and avoid stretching.
Take Short Breaks Throughout the Day
Staying active is essential if you are to avoid back pain in the workplace, and so it is important that you move frequently throughout the day. Short 5-minute trips to the bathroom, to get a drink, to file some documents, or to make some photocopies can help relieve tension in the neck and back, and when combined with simple stretching exercises, these short breaks can prevent the onset of back pain.
Avoid Heavy Lifting
Heavy lifting is another common cause of lower back pain in the workplace, and while it is often unavoidable, there are things you can do to limit the amount of strain it puts on your back.
Wherever possible, ask colleagues for assistance when lifting heavy objects, but if you have to go it alone, you should ensure that you are in a stable position with feet flat on the floor, that your back is as straight as possible, and that you distribute the weight load evenly.
Keeping the load close to your waistline will limit the pressure on your back, and you should always use your knees to support your core when lifting.