Sick of lower back pain? Find out why it’s important to consider your workstation ergonomics, and read seven tips to help you improve your posture while you work.
According to the statistics, if you don’t occasionally suffer from pangs of lower back pain, you’re one of the lucky few.
The global cost of back pain
In 2014, a study led by the University of Sydney found that lower back pain was responsible for one third of workplace-related injuries. And most of these stemmed from poor ergonomic workstations and habits.
This has impacted Australian businesses significantly – the average time employees are off sick from these types of workplace injuries is approximately 10 days per year, costing around Australian $4.8 billion. What’s more, forecasts say that up to 80% of Australians will experience back pain in their lifetime.
And it’s not just Australians who need to pay more attention to their posture at work. According to The World Health Organisation (WHO):
“Low back pain is the leading cause of activity limitation and work absence throughout much of the world, imposing a high economic burden on individuals, families, communities, industry, and governments.”
As many as 86% of people in the UK suffer from back pain, according to the British Chiropractic Association, not surprising when 59% of us spend most of our work day sitting down.
And in the USA, back pain is considered the third ‘most burdensome’ health condition (after ischemic heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) according to the National Institute of Health. It’s also highly costly – the WHO estimates that as many as 149 million work days are lost in the USA every year because of low back pain, costing the country around US$100-200 billion a year.
The answer is ergonomics
So if back pain is so common – and expensive – what can we do about it? The reality is that, if your job requires you to be sat down, there’s not much you can do to change your daily routine. But that’s not to say there’s no hope for your back!
By investing in an ergonomically-friendly environment that will allow you to work productively without any risk or pain, and adopting some new, healthier habits, you can help to ward off any back pain, keep your body happy and prevent the financial impact of sick days.
Seven tips to improve your posture while you work
To help you re-plan your office set up and habits to be kinder to your body and back, writer Hubert Dwight has put together seven ergonomic tips to improve your posture while you work – and that of your employees.
1) Ensure that your chair is lifted high off the ground
This will take the strain off your lower back. When your chair is low, the weight is transferred to your lower spine. By raising the chair, you will transfer the weight to the chair, taking pressure off your back.
2) Don’t sit with items in your back pockets
Sitting on things such as your wallet for a long period of time will cause movements in your spine. This may also cause your lower spine to become weaker and can lead to long-term injuries.
3) Sit upright and move your feet
It is important that you sit upright to maintain good posture. Investing in office chairs that are ergonomic will make it easier to maintain the correct posture over a long period of time. Ensure that both your feet are flat on the floor and move them to improve your blood circulation.
4) Take regular breaks from your workstation
It is easy to get caught up in your workstation for hours on end. While this is productive, it could be harming your musculoskeletal health.
So make sure you take a break and walk around your office once every few hours. Flex your muscles and stretch to avoid your hip flexor muscles becoming shorter and causing your body to tilt forward. Ensure that you regularly stretch your hips, thighs and hamstrings.
5) Don’t slouch!
It’s easy to slouch at work, and most of us do it. But it is quite harmful to our body over the long term. This is often caused by our desks being too low, and it weakens muscles in our chest and upper back.
So ensure your desk is the right height and make a conscious effort to correct your posture if you catch yourself slouching.
6) Be careful with your neck
It’s common for our necks to become fatigued and strained in the working environment, and start causing us pain. To minimise this, it is advised to keep your monitor centred and that you use a chair that keeps your hips and spine aligned.
7) Mind your shoulder posture
Ensure that you rotate your shoulders to maintain your natural alignment. Sitting at a desk all day can cause your body to go into a hunched position. Stretch your shoulders regularly to relax tightened muscles.
Be careful with your body
You’ve only got one body – so look after it! Too many people today are suffering from health issues caused from non-ergonomic environments. So make sure that your workstation (and those of your employees) don’t contribute to expensive and painful back pain and absences from work.