Experiencing neck pain or back pain during time spent at work is becoming more and more common. Working at a computer or sitting for long periods of time is now an integral part of the day for anyone who works in an office. When busy, it’s easy to forget how much time has been spent sitting in the same position and gazing at a computer screen for long periods has the potential for lead to severe muscle strain or injury.
Taking a little time and care with posture can reduce any aches and pains because sitting in a semi-slumped position can reduce the natural curvature of the spine. The lower spine straightens too which will also lead to muscles in the lower back becoming fatigued, however, when posture is good, the lower back does not have to contend with an excessive load placed upon it. If neck and back pain is ongoing, seeking medical advice is important. It may mean having chiropractic treatments or seeing a physiotherapist but there are specific exercise regimes that will work on building flexibility and strength in the back, neck and shoulders. Preventative options include:
Adjust monitor height and keyboard
It is always wise to have a workplace assessment to ensure that you are sitting correctly and that you have the computer and monitor at the right height. It is easy to adjust the height of the monitor so that it is at eye-level which immediately takes strain away from the neck. Place the keyboard so that your arms are at a 90° angle so to prevent strain and use an external monitor rather than a laptop so to avoid bending forward for extensive periods. An ergonomic workstation will reduce any muscle fatigue in the back and neck. The height of the chair should be checked too.
Take a break
It’s easy to become absorbed when work is pressured but taking a regular break can make a big difference to health and well-being. Set yourself a timer for every 30-minutes so that you can move away from the desk and stretch out those muscles. Regular short breaks are much healthier for mind and body rather than taking longer, infrequent breaks. Stretch your arms and legs, adjust your position and release tension from the body.
Perform chair exercises while you work
Regular movement and stretching in between breaks are also useful for keeping the body limber throughout the day and, ensures circulation has a boost. Try the following stretches:
Knee to chest
Sit in your chair and bring one knee up to your chest, using your arms to increase the stretch. As you do so, you will feel a gentle stretch in the lower back. It will also stretch the back of the hip. Hold this pose for approximately 20-seconds and repeat two or three times. Repeat both sides.
This yoga backbend is perfect when sitting in your chair. Alter your position so you move towards the front of the seat and place hands behind you, fingers pointing away from your hips. Moving to fingertip position, draw in the sacrum and lift upwards through the lower back, letting the stretch go all the way through the shoulder blades. This opens the front of the body. Hold for 8-10 seconds and then, release.
Remain on the front of the seat with feet flat on the floor. Place hands on the knees and take a deep breath in, lifting the chest and moving the hips out as if behind you. Lift your heads, open the chest and squeeze the shoulder blades in together. As you exhale, draw in the tummy, making the core firm, round the chest and curl the tailbone under you. Drop the head towards the chest. Repeat this cycle 10-times.
Have a massage each month
Nothing boosts well-being more than a massage and it is excellent for tight muscles and feel good chemicals (endorphins) are released. A regular massage increases circulation and improves blood flow sending nutrients to the muscles and tissues and this can help heal any soft tissue damage. A massage reduces tension and improves flexibility.
Exercise your body in the morning
Gentle exercises in the morning can limber up the body, warming up and stretching those muscles helping to start the day in the right way. If your back or neck is sore on waking and tight muscles lead to tension headaches, try a warm shower when you first get up as this gives circulation a boost and helps release tight muscles. Gentle stretches such as a yoga sun salutation done slowly will stretch out the whole body and even walking to work can improve mood and invigorate mind and body ready to start the working day.
Back and neck pain can affect wellbeing and lead to reduced flexibility but many problems affecting this region are avoidable. It just takes simple changes to posture keeping the spine erect but also increasing flexibility and core strength. At work, simple measures such as adjusting chair height and use a footrest can reduce pressure on the back but back and neck pain affects people differently. It is important to identify the cause and then to look at ways of improving it. When you work with the body and develop an awareness, you will notice immediately those muscles tense or stiffen and this should lead to less pain and improved health.
Annette Young is an experienced freelance writer, author and editor specializing in health and self-improvement at Train Back. She is a qualified stress management, relaxation and addiction therapist and in addition, has studied anatomy and physiology, psychotherapy, yoga and meditation. Annette has worked in the publishing industry for 17-years and is currently residing in Spain.