Physical injury isn’t something you’d associate with an office job. Despite what you may think, there are more grievous physical dangers in an office than getting a papercut.
Sitting for long periods of time in front of a computer can cause other types of pain: primarily back pain. However, this doesn’t have to be the case if the right measures are taken to protect yourself. It’s both the employer’s responsibility and your responsibility to ensure that your work environment is conducive to a healthy environment.
So how can you tell if your workspace is arranged correctly or if you’re doomed to discomfort? Here are some factors you should take into consideration to protect your back.
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The position of your monitor can have a big effect on your back. All too often, a computer is sitting too low. This causes you to bend your neck, which puts a strain on your neck, which in turn can reverberate to your back. A lower monitor will also cause you to unconsciously slump down in your seat. A good height for a monitor is even with your chin so you are looking straight at it. This can be difficult if you use a laptop, so it may be a good idea have an extra monitor for when you’re sitting at your desk.
The height of your keyboard can cause problems as well. Again, if it’s too low, you’ll find yourself slumping in your seat, which will cause pain in your back. The height of the keyboard should be such that your elbows bend at just about 90 degrees. This way you aren’t forced to slump down. This is the same for your mouse. This will also ensure that the keyboard is not too far away from you so that you don’t have to bend forward to maneuver around.
Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, and your thighs should have a slight downward angle. This way your weight will be spread properly, and you won’t be straining your lower back. You should be able to sit with your shoulders straight and not rounded forward.
Not only should your monitor and keyboard be at an appropriate height, but they should also be positioned correctly on your desk. This means they are all straight ahead. You shouldn’t have to turn or twist your body in any way to be able to type, perform mouse movements, and watch the screen at the same time.
Now that you know what to look for when it comes to your equipment set-up, what else can you do to prevent back pain while on the job?
If the chair is the proper height, and the monitor and keyboard are positioned properly, then this should be fairly easy. Your back should be straight, with your shoulders back. This will ensure that your weight is evenly distributed among muscle groups to prevent strain.
Get-up and walk around
It’s a good idea to get up and walk around throughout the day. Try for as often as every half an hour. Even if you can’t do that often, it is still good to get up and loosen things out everyone once in awhile. This will allow the muscles that hold you up while you sit to rest and get loose. Even if it’s a hectic day, taking breaks will allow you to perform better during work periods, so you can afford the extra minutes of rest.
Proper lifting technique
Some jobs may require you to lift objects, and lifting is one of the biggest causes of back injury. Make sure you bend your knees and keep your back straight when you lift. This will put the weight mainly on your legs, which are better equipped for heavy lifting. Never bend forward to pick something up, since this will put a lot of strain on your lower back and your neck.
Treat any injuries as soon as they arise.
If you do get injured, be sure to take care of it as soon as possible. If it’s something mild, then maybe stretching and warm compresses will be able to soothe you back to being pain free. However, if the pain lingers, it’s never a bad idea to check with a doctor to make sure there is nothing more serious going on.
If you follow the above tips and advice, you’ll be well on your way to preventing any potential back issues. However, never be afraid to talk to management about any situations you think are unsafe. Your workplace should be willing to ensure that the office is a healthy and safe environment for all employees. It’s in everyone’s best interest to have healthy and happy workers.
Ben is a freelance journalist and copywriter with a passion for nutrition, fitness, wellness and all the things that keep us healthy, happy and around for a long time. You can follow Ben on Twitter @Ben_F_George