If your job entails sitting for long periods while using the computer, you are at risk for developing actual physical changes to your spine and poor posture, serious pain in your back, neck, and legs, and other possibly permanent health problems. The damage starts as early as in your 20s and 30s, with some symptoms showing up immediately while others continue to progress over time.
The back problems don’t discriminate much among career choices: media buyers, web designers, lawyers, researchers, etc., all are at risk. The criteria are simple. If you sit in an office chair and work at a computer for most of your day, then you have a potential back problem in the making.
The set of back problems for computer users is technically referred to as “non-accidental injury” and results from a combination of factors, including poor body mechanics (aka bad posture), prolonged inactivity, repetitive motions (doing same thing over and over), and fatigue – just plain being worn out and tired (continual late nights or all-nighters, anyone?). This type of injury can lead to some very noticeable physical signs that your job/office chair/computer is prematurely aging you, such as:
-Upper back pain
-Lower back pain
-Carpal tunnel syndrome
What to do? Short of changing jobs, standing and moving around throughout the day, and going back to pen and paper, the office chair and computer are likely to remain a part of any office job you choose. The key is to start making proactive changes now, while you’re still in your 20s-30s-40s, to slow or reverse longer-term back problems that are already in progress.
Six ways to turn back the clock on computer-related back issues:
1. Just move. Your body can only tolerate one position for about 20 minutes at a pop, 30 minutes max. Not only will you experience discomfort, over time the soft tissues in your back (muscles, ligaments, tendons) slowly lose their elasticity, causing unnatural postures, stress in the back and then pain. So, remind yourself that a prolonged static posture is the enemy! Change positions often. Stand, stretch, take a short (or long) walk. Learn the Reverse Arch Stretch Exercise that can be done right in your office chair and literally takes just a few seconds to do.
2. Avoid hunching. Often computer users will sit at the front of their office chair and hunch forward to see the computer screen. This is exactly the WRONG way to use your chair. You actually want to sit back in your chair and have your computer screen at the right height so you don’t have to bend your neck. With a regular tennis ball, you can train yourself to sit back in your chair while sitting and working at the computer. Try the tennis ball technique for 30 days and see if you can “retrain” your posture.
3. Choose a good office chair. The key with your office chair is that it has the flexibility to adjust to your body and work needs in order to support your low back and create good posture. It doesn’t have to be expensive and it doesn’t have to have “ergonomic” in the description. What you do need to look for in a good office chair are the following:
-Adjustable seat height
-Enough seat width and depth
-Adjustable back rest
-Padded seat material
-Adjustable arm rests
4. Set up a back-friendly office. There are some tried-and-true guidelines for setting up your office chair and workstation to make them right for your unique work needs. First, you should determine the proper height of your desk, and then you can adjust your office chair according to your unique physical proportions.
5. Use exercise as the ultimate weapon against back problems. Really important for maintaining good posture as you age is having strong back and abdominal muscles – your core body muscles - to hold your trunk up and in proper alignment. Specific abdominal and back strengthening exercises are needed to build and maintain these core muscles. General aerobic and muscle fitness from walking, swimming, biking, pilates, dancing – whatever kind of movement you prefer – is an absolute must to get your blood circulating after a day of sitting in front of the computer, and frankly as smart prevention against back problems for anyone. As daunting as it seems, getting in some regular back-healthy exercise is in fact doable.
6. Consult your Osteopath. This kind of dysfunctions are an everyday plate for Osteopathy Therapists. Osteopathy techniques can restore the normal joint mobility, eliminate contracted muscles, induce normal neuromuscular function, alleviate pain and advise you wisely.
Posted by: Sylvia in Spine Health