Simple changes in your workday can ease back, neck and hip pain
By Andrew M. Cash, M.D.
Statistics show about half of American workers suffer from some kind of back pain and many believe this is a result of stress, aging or lack of sleep. But, if you take a careful look around your office, there is a good chance it is something you are wearing or doing at work.
Apply these simple changes to relieve the aches and pains that can develop throughout your day.
1. Your Office Chair
The most important job of your executive chair, whether you paid a hefty price or not, is that it functions properly and supports your body. Your chair should swivel, provide lumbar support, have good padding, an adjustable backrest and allow you to rest your feet comfortably on the floor. If you are spending eight or more hours per day in a chair that does not support your spine, discs can become compressed causing pain and poor posture that may worsen over time.
2. Your Workstation
When it comes to your workstation, apply the principles of ergonomics to maintain good posture while you are working. Make sure your computer screen is eye level with a viewing distance of 18-24 inches, use a document holder to prevent constantly looking down at your desk and use wrist rests for the keyboard and mouse. Once your body is positioned properly, there is less risk of fatigue and joint soreness.
3. Your Shoes
It doesn’t matter if you wear high heels, flip-flops, Crocs or flats; the most important function of your shoes is to support your arches and heels, minimizing pressure on the lower back. Loose fitting or backless shoes, like many styles of sandals; actually change your gait, which is the motion of your walk. High heels can have a similar affect by forcing your toes toward the ground before your heels are stable, which adds pressure to the spine and knees. Shoes with backs and arch supports help you to walk and stand correctly, relieving stress on the entire lower body.
4. Your Tablet and Phone
You leave the office and your work leaves with you. Whether at lunch, your car, or home, you are probably answering emails on your phone at least a couple of times a day. You wouldn’t think your tablet or smartphone could be a backbreaker, but posture is absolutely vital when using these devices. We often spend an hour or more focused on emails or social media while being completely unaware of our awkward sitting, standing, leaning or lounging positions. My advice is to avoid reading emails while sprawled out on beds or couches, especially if you are propping yourself up with pillows or an armrest. Make sure that you are sitting up and the device is being held close to eye level.
5. Your Bra
The wrong size and style of bra can have a significant impact on your back health and it’s the one danger that is most often overlooked by women. Every woman who spends eight or more hours per day in a bra should invest the time and energy into a proper bra fitting. The name of the game is support, and the right fit will keep your shoulders from falling forward and pulling on your upper back. If extra weight causes the straps to dig into your shoulders, try a razorback style to provide additional back support.
Dr. Andrew Cash is a fellowship trained and board certified orthopedic spine surgeon and the founder of the Desert Institute of Spine Care in Las Vegas.