Avoiding Neck and Back Strain When You Work in an Office

Spending long hours in front of a computer can have serious consequences on your neck and back health. Neck pain is the number one ailment which affects today's office worker, however developing good work habits can help you avoid workplace neck and back pains. We often take our overall office layout for granted, simply adjusting ourselves to the location and positioning of our computer as well as the arrangement of our desk and chair.

If you work for someone else, you may not have as much freedom to change these potential hazards as you will if you work at home, however if you let your employer know that productivity increases when neck and back pain decrease, they may be much more open to change. Neck and back pain from work is one of the most common causes of doctor visits, and can significantly reduce work productivity. In fact, the number one cause of time away from work is back pain, so taking steps to reduce that pain can also reduce time off.

Just Like Mom Said, Sit up Straight!

It's extremely important to sit up straight with just a bit of a lean back while you are working at your desk, maintaining a posture which puts your back and shoulders against the back of the chair--which should be adjusted to the very best height for you. Place your feet flat on the floor, and, like mom said, don't slouch. If your chair can be adjusted, then adjust it to fit you specifically. If it cannot be adjusted, consider getting a new one.

Causes of Neck and Back Pain

Repetitive motions such as computer data inputting can swiftly lead to muscle fatigue and injury over a period of time, just as prolonged postures such as sitting for extended periods of time places significant pressure on the discs and joints of the back. Stress can also cause muscles to tighten, in turn leading to neck and back pain, and, as most office workers know, stress is part of the package.

When your neck remains in the same position for literally hours on end as you look at a computer screen, you may find yourself at the end of the day with excruciating pain radiating from your neck and shoulders.

The Important Office Chair

A good office chair is perhaps the number one requirement in the reduction of back, neck and shoulder pain. A great office chair allows for postural changes and can be adjusted to precisely fit your body. The cushion should not be so soft that you sink into it, and the seat height should allow your feet to be flat on the floor with thighs horizontal, and your arms even with the desk height. The lower back support in your perfect office chair will have a definite inward curve and a lumbar adjustment in both height and depth. Adjustable armrests are crucial, and the ergonomic chair must rotate to allow the user full access to the computer, desk and accessories.

Office Ergonomics

A fancy name for positioning your body in the best way to avoid strain and stress, practicing ergonomics can lessen the pain you feel in your back and neck. To keep your body in an ergonomically correct position, make sure your lower back is fully supported with your chair's back rest, and keep your upper body upright or leaned slightly back.

Keep your head level, and keep your work in front of you so you are looking straight ahead while working. Your elbows need to be close to your side and at a 90 degree bend. Wrists should stay mostly straight while working, and your knees must remain at the same level as your hips. Keep your feet slightly out in front of your knees, resting comfortably on the floor or a footrest.

It's extremely important to get up every hour for at least a few minutes and walk around, then stretch your neck, back, arms and legs before going back to your work station. Finally, getting a massage now and then can go a long way toward relieving neck and back pain, making it worth the cost.