5 Tips to a Spine-Friendly Work Space

Peer Reviewed

Work might be a pain, but it doesn't have to cause pain. Here are 5 things you should know about how to make sure your office is good for your spine:

#1 Desk
Make sure your workspace is:


  • Stable (not wobbly).
  • At a good height (28"-30" above the floor is suitable for most adults).
  • Large enough for your computer and has surface space for writing and other tasks.
  • Not so large that you have to over-reach to do your work. This can cause excessive strain on the spine.



#2 Chair
Use a well-constructed ergonomic chair to help reduce fatigue and discomfort, increase your blood flow, and reduce the risk of injury to your neck and spine. These usually cannot be ordered by mail or off the Internet. This is one product that should be tried in the store so you know how it feels before buying it. Make sure your office chair:

Office Chair


  • Has a good backrest that provides lumbar support.
  • Can recline (sitting upright at a 90º angle is actually not good for your spine, 100º-110º is better).
  • Is not too high (your feet should be flat on the floor).
  • Can rotate or swivel so that you can easily switch from task to task.


Extra Set-Up Tip!
Sit in the chair facing forward with perfect posture. While seated in that perfect position, construct the work environment around that position. In other words, all other pieces of furniture and equipment must be positioned to accommodate that perfect position. It might require stacking several books under the computer screen to bring it even to head level. The screen must be at eye level and the user should sit directly in front of the screen. A sliding keyboard attachment under the desk might be beneficial.

#3 Computer
Since most office work is done on computers, where your equipment is placed can make a difference in how your back feels when you are at work. Try the following:

  • Tilt the keyboard down and slightly away from you for better wrist posture.
  • Make sure your mouse is close enough so that you can use it with your arms relaxed and as close to your body as possible.
  • Place the monitor directly in front of you at eye level, not off to one side, to avoid neck and eye strain.
  • If using a laptop, consider getting an external monitor or keyboard (or both). This will allow you to move each of these components separately to create a comfortable arrangement.


#4 Practice Safe Sitting
Even with the "best" equipment, if you are not sitting correctly, your spine will suffer. When sitting, note where your head, hands, and legs are. To avoid back pain, make sure to:


  • Sit upright with your back and shoulders against the back of the chair.
  • Avoid holding your phone between your head and shoulder.
  • Don't slouch.
  • Arms should rest lightly on the armrests to avoid circulatory problems or nerve pressure.
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor (don't cross your legs!).
  • Relax your shoulders while keyboarding.

Extra Set-Up Tip!
Spend a lot of time on the telephone? Then consider using a hands-free headset to prevent neck and shoulder pain.

#5 Take a Break
Not just a coffee break, but a spine break. Stretch, take a short walk, get the blood flowing. When you are at your desk, avoid staying in one position for a long time. Try switching between sitting and standing.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to leave your office feeling as refreshed as when you came in? Avoiding excessive strain on your spine can help you do just that.


Updated on: 11/01/12
Curtis A. Dickman, MD
There are many simple things we can do to treat symptoms of low back pain. Arranging our workspaces ergonomically, watching our posture, weight control, avoiding mechanical stress on the spine, performing exercises and stretching are fundamental to maintaining a healthy spine.