Back complaints and other musculoskeletal disorders are the second most common cause of long-term absenteeism in the UK after stress-related illness.
It has been estimated that more than 7.5 million work days were lost in the UK from 2010-2011 because of back pain blamed on the workplace.
The most common cause of bad backs at work are poor posture, sitting for extended periods in the same position and not taking enough regular breaks.
In general, back pain caused by an uncomfortable office chair or sitting incorrectly can be remedied in just a few days. Even more extreme back pain can usually be cured in a few weeks if you improve your posture, invest in a suitable ergonomic chair and take frequent breaks away from your desk.
Treating Back Problems
Contrary to widely held opinion, one of the best ways to treat bad backs is to keep active. Some people say that it is not a good idea to use pain killers because numbing the pain might make your back worse due to the anaesthetic effect. In general, this is not true. You are far better off staying active and avoid lying down for long periods.
If you decide to take time off work because of a back problem and spend your days lying in bed, you are likely to make your back muscles even weaker and this in the long term will exacerbate the problem.
So even though it seems contradictory advice to what you may have heard in the past, keep moving and keep active if you are physically able to.
Poor posture while sitting at your desk will almost certainly cause back problems in the long term. The reason for this is that your body is not designed for remaining in one position all day long. It’s a bit like lying in bed – even while asleep your body will subconsciously adjust it’s position frequently to keep you comfortable.
In very simple terms, you need to make sure that you sit up straight, ensure your lower back is properly supported and if necessary add a neck rest to your chair. You may also need to make some adjustments to your office chair which I’ve outlined in the section below.
Employers have a duty to their employees to ensure that they as safe as possible from risk and harm. Therefore, it you’re unsure how to reduce the chances of back pain occurring or RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury), ask for a workplace assessment to be conducted.
There are a number of factors that can affect your sitting posture and these include the following:
Positioning of your computer screen
- Your office desk layout and equipment
- Your computer mouse positioning and placement
- Your keyboard positioning and placement
- The height of your office chair, particularly in relation to your desk and computer monitor
Office Chair Adjustment
As a bare minimum, your choice of ergonomic office chair should have the following adjustable features:
- Seat height
- Back rest (both height and tilt)
The back rest should ideally independently of the chair seat to ensure maximum comfort
Make the necessary adjustments so that your thighs are at right angles to your body or sloping slightly downwards.
Additionally, your feet should be firmly planted on the floor. If you find that your legs do not allow this, a footrest should be used. This will help prevent your circulation becoming restricted and protect your back from possible injury.
Some chairs have an inflatable lumbar control which you can manually adjust to add further support for your back. Please call for details 0800 298 7033.
Office Chairs For Back Problems
Finding a comfortable office chair is a very personal and subjective thing. Although that might sound kind of obvious, this is the advice we would give to anyone who asks if we can recommend a comfortable chair.
If you actually try out a number of chairs you might be surprised to find that a less expensive chair is more comfortable and suitable for your particular needs.
We have a selection of ergonomic office chairs to try in our showroom which is located in Poole, Dorset, BH17 7BD.
In addition, we have a much larger selection on our office furniture website.
Advice To Prevent Back Pain
- [info_list] Make sure you take regular breaks to prevent tense muscles and stiffness. Even if it’s just to make a drink, file some paperwork or do some photocopying. Obviously fresh air will be beneficial and it’s always good to take time away from the stale air that often proliferates through offices. It’s better to take frequent short breaks than extended periods away from your desk. This is because the muscles you use for sitting are given the opportunity to relax while the muscles used for standing take the strain.
- Try to vary your movements throughout the day. It’s no good taking a break from you office desk only to go and sit in a staff room chair. Stretch your legs, make a cup of tea or go for a walk.
- Ensure you sit up straight without slouching. Keep your shoulders back and your lower back properly supported. However, it’s also important to change your position and posture periodically because if you sit without moving for too long, you run the risk of developing stiffness and back ache.
- You’re more likely to suffer from back problems if you are overweight. Therefore, it’s important to exercise regularly and lose any extra weight you may be carrying!