The Importance of Maintaining Back Health at WorkWednesday, August 03, 2016
Like most, you are undoubtedly aware that sitting at a desk all day while at work can be a pain in the back. Literally. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, sitting for long periods can lead to back pain, muscle tenderness and body aches. While the effects of prolonged sitting can be alleviated by alternating sitting with other body positions, some jobs require sitting for long periods which can cause fatigue, as noted by CCOHS. This is caused by a reduction in blood flow due the squeezing of the blood vessels by the muscles required to hold the abdomen, neck and shoulders in a fixed position while sitting. But did you know that sitting can also make the muscles susceptible to injury?
The Ontario Chiropractic Association recognizes that sitting down on the job can strain your muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments, compressing the spinal discs and limiting the nutrients they need to stay healthy. As such, injuries resulting from prolonged sitting are serious occupational health problems and are becoming increasingly common. In an article that linked sitting to occupational low back pain, research indicated that workers who spend most of their day in a seated position had the highest rate of hospitalization for low back pain injury.
What's more, the Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research Group has identified that Canadian adults spend about 75% of their time doing sedentary activities. While prolonged sitting, stress and a busy work schedule can be overwhelming, maintaining overall health by eating well, exercising regularly and drinking lots of water is of utmost importance. In addition, the Ontario Chiropractic Association offers up a few tips to help stay pain and injury-free at work.
Tips on How to Stay Pain-Free at Work
- Posture - Since the strength of your core determines posture, it is a good idea to practice “active sitting”. To do this, sit with your feet flat on the ground in front of you with your back straight, your shoulders squared and your ears in-line with your shoulders.
- Invest in a good office chair - An ergonomic chair that can be easily adjusted and properly supports your lower back while accommodating your size is a wise investment. Also ensure that it offers a sturdy, comfortable seat with a front edge that curves downward to promote proper posture. The use of armrests, a footrest and an adjustable tilt seat pan can further customize your workstation based on your needs.
- Change it up - The use of stability balls instead of regular office chairs is a recent trend to hit the workplace. Keep in mind, however, that stability balls should not completely replace office chairs and are not suited for everyone. If you want to try it out, seek the advice of your chiropractor first and be sure to alternate between the ball and your chair to periodically change your position while strengthening your core. You may also consider a sit-stand workstation that can be adjusted to accommodate sitting or standing.
- Take frequent breaks - Experts recommend moving or changing positions every 30 to 45 minutes. Examples of mid-day breaks include going for a walk during lunch hour, visiting a co-worker’s desk, or incorporating “stretch breaks” throughout the day to free muscles from their fixed positions and boost your energy.
- Stretch - This is my personal favourite. In fact, you will often find me stretching while waiting for a print job to finish at the photocopier since it helps to increase circulation and, quite frankly, it feels so good! Stretching also helps to decrease aches and pains, and maintain good posture. To loosen neck muscles, try interlacing your fingers, placing them behind your head and gently pushing your head into your hands. To stretch your chest and the front of your body, place your hands on either side of your spine, roll your shoulders back and lift the heart up towards the ceiling.
- Reach for the sky - Pull out your smart phones and download Straighten Up Canada, a free mobile app developed by Canada’s chiropractors which offers an easy posture program that can be done right at your desk. Aimed at improving posture and spinal health, the program offers 12 unique posture exercises, how-to photos and videos. You can also enable notifications to remind you to keep active and aligned. The app is available on iOS, Android and Blackberry devices in both English and French.
To help maintain back health, one lucky reader will win a work posture prize pack valued at approximately $100 that includes the following:
To be eligible to win, complete the Rafflecopter form below. Open to residents of Ontario only.
Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by the Ontario Chiropractic Association.