Back pain expert and ergonomist Nichola Adams offers some advice on reducing your risk of back injury at work.
During the past 12 years, I‘ve supported about 3,000 individuals and hundreds of companies, advising them on how they can minimise their risk of back injury in the workplace.
Here are my suggestions on how you can adjust your desk set-up to prevent postural-related pain and look after your back better in the long term…
1. Don’t Be a Slouched Potato or a Cave Man
I meet two types of slouchers: the most common is the ‘Slouched Potato’. This person slouches in their chair, letting their backside slide halfway down their seat.
Then there’s the ‘Cave Man’, who slouches forward, shoulders rounded, head down.
Both slouches exert pressure on discs, compacting the space around them. They’ll stretch and weaken muscles over time.
So sit up tall, leaning against your back rest. You’ll instantly feel better, oxygen will reach your brain and your back will thank you.
2. Raise your Screen to Eye Level
Stiffness and pain in the neck and shoulders is very common among today’s hot-desking, flexi-working, laptop-using generation.
If you do use a laptop, raise it and use a separate keyboard and mouse to avoid neck and shoulder stress.
For desk workers, raise your screen to eye level and you’ll subtly encourage yourself not to slouch.
3. Take Extra Measures to Support your Back
If you adjust your chair so it feels more comfortable, you’ll be encouraged to sit up straight, using your backrest for support.
If you have a lumbar support, adjust the height and depth to fit your back’s own curve. Or buy an inflatable lumbar support. This reduces muscle strain and can help prevent tiredness, which can lead to injury, especially in the lower back.
4. Make Full Use of Armrests
Physiotherapists used to recommend not using armrests. However, so long as you have height-adjustable armrests, these will encourage you to sit up, with arms supported in line with the desk. This reduces shoulders and neck tension.
Draw your chair close to your desk. Make sure your shoulders relax onto the armrests. Then adjust the chair height to double-check they are in the right position.
5. Keep your Keyboard and Mouse Close
I frequently witness people pushing their keyboard and mouse away from their body to make room for paperwork. This tempts you to lean forward and extend your arms, encouraging a ‘Cave Man’ slouch.
Move your keyboard and mouse close to the front of your desk, so you can comfortably relax back on your chair when typing.
6. Remember Motion is Lotion
Keeping your body – limbs, bones, muscles and ligaments – moving is vital for a healthy back and general wellbeing. Motion is lotion, so make time to exercise and take standing breaks all day.
Aim for at least a one-minute standing break every 20-40 minutes. Standing allows nutrients and oxygen to feed your muscles and discs.
One of the UK’s leading back-pain experts, Nichola Adams is the Founder of Inspired Ergonomics. Find out more at inspiredergonomics.com