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Is your Desk Causing you Back Pain?

Updated: Nov 4, 2021

As we get into the Autumn season and back into the swing of things at work… you may have started to experience some back pain. The fact of the matter is that the human body doesn’t like to remain stationary. So long days being spent fixed to your desk – especially with bad posture habits – can begin to cause us back pain.

So, let’s take a look at some of the common mistakes we make while sitting down that could be the reason for your pain.

You’re looking up or down at your desk and/or screen.

On average the human head weighs 5kg. So, it’s not surprising that holding it at any slight angle for extended period of time puts a strain on the muscles in your neck and upper back. The further you lean your head and the amount of time you keep that straining posture all determines just how much extra work your neck and upper back muscles have to do.

If this is a position you use often, you’re likely going to end up with a lot of discomfort and possibly strain your neck.

You’re leaning forward

If you often find yourself leaning forward to look at your screen or other work this could be a major cause for back pain. The reason being that this forward leaning posture puts even more pressure on the vertebrae of your lower spine (lumbar area). This extra pressure compresses your disks.

The pain caused by compressed disks is often described as a sharp or burning pain. This sensation might shoot into your arm or leg when you cough, sneeze or move into certain positions. This is certainly something to be avoided as compressed disks can be extremely uncomfortable and greatly reduce your quality of life.

Your Shoulders are rolled forward

A major cause of lower back pain is the lack of proper lumbar support from a chair. Often chairs may be too soft or are designed in a way that does not encourage good posture. If you find yourself slouching at your desk with your shoulders rolled forward, over time this can cause an imbalance in your upper body muscle strength. Specifically, in that your pectoral (chest) muscles have become stronger than your back muscles. If this is the case, you should make a conscious effort to improve your posture and also exercise your back muscles to regain the balance between the two.

If you’re wondering if this is a concern for you there is a simple test you can do at home. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and let your arms hang down by your side in a relaxed position. If you find that your thumb is pointing forward, you’re most likely balanced in your muscle strength. If however, your palms are pointing behind you, this can indicate that you have an imbalance.

Your elbows are too far away from your body

There is a rule when it comes to lifting anything – the further away your elbows are from your torso, the more of a strain you put on your shoulders and upper back. Now while it may not seem comparable - the same logic goes for when you are reaching forward to type or write. While you’re not technically lifting anything you are still causing strain to your shoulders and upper back – especially so if you are maintaining that position for up to 8 hours (or more) every day.

You sit for too long

Have you heard the phrase “sitting is the new smoking”? This became a popular term in the corporate world after Dr. Joan Vernikos, former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division released her book “Sitting Kills, Moving Heals”. In this book she explains “We weren’t designed to sit. The body is a perpetual motion machine.” When we remain sedentary, it becomes more difficult for the blood to flow throughout our body. This causes our muscles to get less oxygen and nutrients.

In order to combat this, it’s important to frequently take breaks from sitting to get up, stretch and walk around a little. The rule of thumb is that you should take a little movement break for every 30 minutes of sitting throughout the workday.

Final words

Now that you are aware of these common mistakes people make while sitting for extended periods of time… you can begin to take notice of your own sitting habits. And whether they may be the cause of your pain.

If you are experiencing back pain issues that are persistent, a physiotherapy treatment plan can help you gain back your range of motion without fear of pain. If you are interested in having an evaluation, please do get in touch today.

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