Total Therapy Blog
Saving Your Back… At the Desk!
This is the first part in a multi-part series of articles written by our therapists. Each week, we will be talking about low back health in different settings. So check back next week for the next section!
Work, just like play, can take a toll on your low back health. Prolonged or awkward postures, bad habits, and heavy loads can add up to low back discomfort or even injury. The good news is that there are a few simple changes that you can make to your work day to greatly reduce the risk of low back soreness and injury.
This week, we’ll address the desk job. For this article’s purpose, we define a desk job as one where individuals spend most of their day seated, usually typing or working at a computer. Although this may not seem like a “high-risk” job for back pain, a brief survey around your office may surprise you. Holding a position for too long (e.g. prolonged sitting) can be as damaging over time as repeat heavy lifting. In order to keep your back healthy, try out these four tips in your office:
- Take micro-breaks. Most desk jobs can accommodate little breaks over the course of the day (5 or 10 minutes), so take advantage of this and get up out of your chair. Go outside for a quick walk. Research has shown that brisk walking can help “reset” the spine, moving everything back into alignment. If you don’t have enough time to do this, take a walk around your office, or stand and visit some co-workers for a few minutes. Whatever you do, do not sit down during these breaks!
- If you’re spending most of your day seated, you’re likely putting large compressive loads through your spine in a flexed position. Over time, this can contribute to disc bulges or even herniations. To help minimize the amount of flexion in your spine while seated, try using a lumbar back support. You can buy a specially-designed support, or simply use a rolled-up towel. When positioning your back support, slide your butt to the very back of the seat pan, lean forward, and drop the back support down. Sit back up with your shoulders touching the back rest. The back support should be in the natural curve of your low back, supporting your spine in neutral.
- The sky reach stretch is a favourite of ours at the clinic, and is as simple as it sounds: While standing, keep your hands together and move them above your head, reaching for the sky! Ensure not to over-extend through your spine. This helps reverse the negative effects of spine flexion.
- Keep active. Study after study has shown that people who are physically active are less likely to experience back pain. Strengthening the core muscles of the torso reduces the load on your spine, decreasing the amount of wear-and-tear, and improves your posture. Check out our “All About Core – Myths Busted and Training Tips” for a more detailed discussion.
That’s it for this week’s Saving Your Back quick tip. Check back next week when we discuss Lifting and More Physical Jobs!
Do you have any other tips and tricks that you use while you are at your desk? Share it with us in the comment section below! Feel free to also leave us comments and suggestions on FaceBook and Twitter!