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More than half of all formal and modern professionals today involve some form of a sedentary lifestyle—with the common one being spending at least five hours a day sitting, or working while sitting at a desk. And considering that we spend close to 60 percent of our lives working—this translates to thousands of hours over the course of our lifetime—such a sedentary way of living is bound to predispose you to overstrain your neck, spine, and lower back muscles. Which, of course, translates to chronic back pain, particularly to persons over 40.
That being said, there are proven ways that, when adopted, can significantly reduce, or even completely eliminate chronic back pain resulting from spending hours sitting at a desk.
1. Adopt a Correct Working and Sitting Posture.
Any chiropractor and spinal health doctor can confirm that the wrong posture while working is the biggest culprit for the numerous complaints of back pain that we have nowadays. Far from what most of us have been led to believe, it is not so much how long we spend sitting, but more of our posture during that time.
The recommended posture while working at your office desk is placing your feet on the floor flat, while keeping your back completely flush with the chair. Your head ought to be in a naturally neutral position in a way that the ears are positioned directly above one's shoulders.
While at it, you can avoid rounding your shoulders and back—another poor posture—by adjusting the height of the seat to allow correct angling down of the thighs. This keeps you from adopting the common unhealthy posture of working while your head/shoulders are slumped forward. Besides, such a posture—which emphasizes on having one's feet placed flat on the floor—distributes your weight evenly throughout the pelvis and sit bones, further lessening the chances of over-straining the lower back muscles.
2. Buy an Ergonomic Sit-Stand Desk.
You may want to invest in such a desk if you have an existing back problem, or spend more than three hours a day working at a stationary position. Ergonomic sit-stand desks are the perfect way to keep back pain at bay while not compromising one's productivity or concentration.
Remember that the origin of almost all common back ailments can be traced to the fact that the subjects often spend countless hours a day sitting stationary, thereby putting too much uneven pressure on their vertebrae discs. The result is a less flexible spine that is more prone to injury from disk damage. In fact, experts estimate that we put anywhere between 50 and 90 percent more uneven pressure on our backs while sitting than standing. The solution? Avoid sitting for too long at a go.
Sit-stand desks are an excellent way of allowing an easy transition between standing and sitting working postures throughout the day. Standing occasionally, contrary to what most are aware of, infuses your working lifestyle with a myriad of health benefits such as neck and back pain relief, while promoting continuous blood flow by encouraging you to stay mobile, and keep moving.
3. Correct Keyboard Placement and Monitor Height
While working at a desk, the computer monitor ought to be directly parallel in front of you such that the center of the screen is level, or at par with your nose. Any lower than that, and you will be forced to angle or dip your head downwards, thereby straining your neck and upper spinal muscles. That means that you will have to get a second monitor to project your work, if your laptop is your primary working tool.
At the same time, get into the habit of positioning the screen close enough to make sure that your elbows are at right angles (approximately 90 degrees) when typing. The keyboard should be set high enough so that you are not forced to hunch over and slump down just to touch the keys. The mouse, as expected, should also be at the same level as the new keyboard position.
4. Yoga and Stretching Exercises
Yoga's primary focus on steadiness and posture balance encourages the body to gradually develop natural positional defenses to conquer some of the main causes of back pain. These causes include weak pelvic and abdominal muscles, as well as poor flexibility of the hips. It goes without saying that if you can strengthen these muscles—by adopting a consistent yoga and stretching regimen—you will significantly improve your sitting posture, and, in turn, reduce the cumulative load normally saddled on your back. In the long run, this should reduce, or even entirely eliminate that never-ending ache that you get at the end of a hard day spent working on your desk. Here is a great Yoga routine for office workers to get you started.
5. Take Regular Breaks and Walk Around
Set a silent alarm or notification to remind you to get up from your desk, and stroll briskly or jog in place, every 30 to 45 minutes. It may not sound like much, but this can significantly reduce the chances of developing neck, back, and shoulder pain that often culminates from spending hours sitting still for long periods of time at a go. What's more, getting up and walking around frequently minimizes the risk of spending too much time sitting in one poor/unhealthy posture.
Weave in these five tips to your daily working habits to experience a more productive and healthier lifestyle. Your back/spine is one of the most delicate parts of the human frame, and a poor working and sitting posture can easily wreck irreversible damage to it over time.