Is Your Work Space Spine-Friendly?

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While work can be a pain, it doesn't have to cause pain. Setting up your office work space to avoid back and neck strain is easier than you may think. Equipment options like sit-to-stand desks and ergonomic chairs are making it easier than ever to feel pain-free at the end of the workday.  Plus, rethinking your work environment is a great opportunity to brush up on your posture and other healthy work habits.

work space, desk, ergonomic chair, computerHere are five ways you can design your office with your spine in mind.

#1. Perfect your sitting posture. Even with the best equipment, your spine will suffer if you're not sitting correctly. When sitting, pay attention to the position of your head, hands, and legs. To avoid back pain, make sure to do the following:

  • Sit upright with your back and shoulders against the back of your chair
  • Avoid holding your phone between your head and shoulder. Consider using a hands-free headset to prevent neck and shoulder pain
  • Don't slouch
  • Arms should rest lightly on the armrests of your chair to avoid circulatory problems or nerve pressure
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor—don’t cross your legs
  • Relax your shoulders while typing

#2. Get a good 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 back. Getting the right chair is important, so this is one product that should be tried in the store as opposed to buying online so you know how it feels before buying it. Make sure your office chair has the following:

  • A good backrest that provides lumbar support
  • The ability to recline (Sitting upright at a 90º angle is actually not good for your spine; a 100-degrees to 110-degrees angle is better.)
  • Flexible height (You don’t want the seat to be too high—your feet should be flat on the floor)
  • The ability to rotate or swivel, so you can easily switch task

#3. Invest in a desk that does more than hold your stuff. Among the biggest pitfalls of a spine-friendly work routine is staying in one position for a long time. Switching between sitting and standing is the ideal approach, and some desks—known as sit-stand desks or sit-to-stand desks—encourage you to mix up your posture throughout the workday.

Sit-to-stand desks offer you the option to work comfortably in both sitting and standing poses—and they’ve even been found to help burn calories. They come in a variety of styles and price points, and an increasing number of employers are considering this investment to boost workplace wellness.

If you’re looking to boost the ergonomic quality of a traditional desk, make sure the desk is:

  • Stable (not wobbly)
  • Appropriately high (typically 28" to 30" above the floor)
  • Large enough for your computer, with surface space for writing and other tasks
  • Not so large that you have to over-reach to do your work, which can cause excessive strain on the spine

#4. Take a good look at your computer. Since so much 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 tips:

  • Tilt the keyboard down and slightly away from you for better wrist posture
  • Make sure your mouse is close enough so you can use it with your arms relaxed, and let it be 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. Adjustable monitor stands are available to help you find the perfect height.
  • 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.

#5. Take a break. Not just a coffee break but a spine break. Stretch, take a short walk, get the blood flowing. It’s easy to get caught up in work tasks and forget that you’ve been sitting or typing for a straight hour. Whether it’s a 15-minute walk or two-minute stretch session, occasional breaks will help revive your muscles, and you might even feel more productive, too.

You spend a lot of time at work—why not take a few extra steps to create a space that does your spine a few favors in return? By making a few changes, whether taking more breaks or investing in a sit-stand desk, you’ll make great strides toward back and neck pain prevention.

Updated on: 09/19/17
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How to Avoid Neck Pain at the Office
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.
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How to Avoid Neck Pain at the Office

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