Beware the chair! Preventative advice for office workers

Beware the chair! Preventative advice for office workers

As a chiropractor working in close proximity to the CBD, office-related injuries and strain are one of the most common things I see. Our bodies aren’t designed to be sitting still for long periods. Sitting in relatively fixed postures can eventually lead to back or neck dysfunction, which often shows up as neck and shoulder pain, low back pain, headaches or postural problems.

Using a laptop without a riser is a particularly common cause of neck and shoulder trouble as the screen is generally too low. If used on a couch or in bed, the user’s spine often curves to a C-shape. Looking down at a smart phone or tablet for extended periods can have the same effect.

Sitting in long meetings often aggravates neck shoulder or low back issues, as chairs in meeting rooms often lack proper support; this can be exacerbated by the fact that in meetings there are limited opportunities to stand and stretch. Walking meetings are becoming an increasingly common way to counter this.

Standing desks are also becoming more common. Studies show they dramatically reduce upper back and neck pain and even improve your mood.

If your workstation is designed for sitting, ensure it is set up ergonomically. An OH & S ergonomic check is always best if available; however, if your workplace doesn’t provide ergonomic assessments, then you may find the following key points useful when setting up your workstation:

–  The screen should be directly in front of your eyes, with the top of the screen at eye level;

–  The keyboard and mouse should be close to your body, so you are not reaching forward or to one side;

–  Your knees should be slightly below the level of your hips; and

–  Your feet should touch the ground or be supported by a foot rest.

Regular breaks from sitting are crucial. Aim to stand for 20 seconds every 20 minutes, and have a short walk every hour.

It is also important for your spinal health to keep your body moving with some general exercise. Walking, swimming, yoga or Pilates are all great ways to get active – find an activity that is convenient and enjoyable and you’ll be more likely to stick with it.

You may also like to try these two stretches at home:

Pec stretch

Pectoral stretches, illustrated in the diagram above, help encourage flexibility through the chest. Lean against a wall or a doorway, and vary the angle of your arm to stretch the upper and lower fibres of your pecs. Hold for 10-15 seconds on each side and repeat 3-4 times per day.

Pec stretch

Upper trapezius stretches are great to take the tension out of your neck and shoulders. Drop one shoulder and tilt your head away for 10-15 seconds. You can anchor the low shoulder down by holding onto a desk or a railing, or by using your other arm, as in the picture above. Repeat 3-4 times per day on each side.

For more advice on how to minimise the stresses of a desk job, don’t hesitate to call us on 9518 5279 or book an appointment online.

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