You know the feeling. No, you dread it. After a long day at work, hunched over a keyboard in a standardized office chair, you can’t even enjoy your evening at home. Not even a good drink and the latest episode of your favorite TV show can put you at ease.
What’s holding you back? The answer is in the question. Your back aches, it pains, and it causes such discomfort that you can’t relax. Quitting your desk job and escaping to the mountains of in Europe isn’t really an option, so what can you do?
We’re here to help. Read on to discover five ways you can keep your back healthy at work.
Be Aware of Your Head
The keyboard is below your hands and your hands are below your head, so it makes sense that you would be tempted to spend the majority of your workday looking down. Cellphones have only added to this temptation. For short periods of time, this position is fine—our necks are designed to direction our heads in multiple ways—but over time, it can wreak havoc on your body.
Looking down causes the head to also strain forward. This actually makes the job of the supportive muscles in your neck work much harder. Over time, you will not only suffer from aches and pains, but will likely severely damage your posture, which in turn contributes to the pattern of discomfort.
Sitting for extended periods can contribute to back issues and can even lead to decreased energy and morale. Getting up and moving around, even briefly and without much gusto, can improve your mood, increase blood flow, and reenergize you.
Consider setting goals for yourself. For example, break up large tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. When you finish one of those smaller tasks, take a break. Go for a brief walk, visit the restroom, or simply stay in your office and move your arms and shoulders around. If setting small milestones doesn’t work for you, consider utilizing an hourly alarm as a reminder.
Go Easy on Your Eyes
Your nightly laptop routine of surfing the Internet, checking the news, and updating yourself on the ballgame isn’t going to ruin your eyesight or cause too much strain unless you have a propensity to experience eye strain. Using a laptop for hours on end, however, can affect your eyes and cause you to lean forward to see better or use the keyboard properly.
This forward posture can ultimately take its toll on your back. To counteract the effect, consider using a separate monitor that is easier to adjust and see, as well as a keyboard and mouse that can be adjusted to your particular needs.
Keep Your Legs Grounded
Many of us shift our seating position frequently and habitually, often times without even noticing. What is often overlooked is how certain ways of sitting affects our spines.
Sitting cross-legged, for example, tends to put the spine out of alignment. Your back won’t be straight, your shoulders won’t be square, and the muscles that work to hold you in proper posture—from your pelvis to your head—won’t be in their natural states. Over time, this can cause substantial back pain, as well as other potential medical issues. So, sit with your feet on the ground!
Keep Your Shoulders Relaxed
Walk into any office and you’ll likely see these two things: someone hunched over a keyboard and someone holding a phone between their ear and their shoulder. Pop Quiz: what do these positions have in common?
Both of the aforementioned positions put the musculature of the neck, upper back, and shoulders in a compromised position. Try to be aware of these pitfalls of office life and counteract them by taking time to stretch those areas from time-to-time. Roll your shoulders around, breathe deeply, and maybe even look up some stretches that can help keep your upper body loose and free of pain.