Chronic Pain From Your Desk Job Relieved in 5 Easy Ways

office back pain

Many clients come to us complaining of neck, shoulder, or back pain which can usually be traced back to occupational hazards of a desk job.

There are numerous studies stating that prolonged sitting can increase our risk of developing chronic diseases, never mind chronic pain from prolonged static postures.

With so much of our lives now in front of a computer or desk, it isn’t surprising that many people have neck, shoulder and back pain that originates from prolonged sitting and poor office station set-up. When performing a postural assessment, I often see clients with kyphotic postures that includes rounded shoulders, a forward sitting head, an extended neck and an excessive curve in their lower back (lordosis). Most of these clients spend large amounts of their time seated at a desk (at work and/or home), driving, or sitting watching television or playing on the computer, tablet or smart phone.

1. Correct Ergonomic Office Desk Set-Up

At home or at work it is essential that your workstation set-up to enable you to achieve a suitable posture while working. WorkSafeBC has a fantastic step-by-step resource that will help you set up a computer workstation correctly. View it here work station set-up 

When sitting at a station that is not desk-based (e.g. on a sofa or in the car) it is also important to think about how you can achieve some of these recommendations especially if you are going to be in that position for longer than 60 minutes.

2. Be Aware of Body Position and Posture

Being aware of your body’s position is a key to good posture. To achieve good alignment ensure you are weight bearing through your ‘sitting bones’, that you are sitting up tall with a lengthened spine, that your shoulders are slightly back and down (not in you ears) and that your head is above your hips (not in front of them) with your ears slightly in slightly in front of your shoulders.

  • Lean back once in awhile to use the back support.
  • Complete a posture check every 15 min- are you starting lean in your head in? Try zooming your work to see it better.

3. Develop Good Office Stretching Habits

A office stretching routine can help prevent and alleviate aches and pains. An achy upper-back often means that those muscles are over working and not in an efficient functional position. Try opening the chest and pulling the back head back over the shoulders – this is counter intuitive but effective!

Perform the following stretches throughout your day as required:

  • Neck: Slowly flex your head down and up, rotate left and right, and flex side to side.
  • Shoulder: roll your shoulders gently up, back, down and forwards 5 – 10 times.
  • Chest: open up your chest area by extending your arms straight out to your sides with the thumbs up or stand up to find a doorway to the classic doorway chest stretch.
  • Hips: Shift your hips so that you are sitting on the edge of the chair with one leg off. Place that leg back like a seated lunge with your knees bent to 90 degrees one. Reach your arms overhead to get a get a stretch on the side which is off the side.
  • Spine: Sit-up tall. Take a nice breath in; turn to one side while focusing on making sure that the rotation comes from the thoracic spine. Breathing properly helps the ribs rotate. Also, periodically tilt your head side to side or look left and right. 
  • If you need something to remind you, Stretch Prompter is a tool that you can download from WorkSafeBC Here.

4. Move Every Hour

Movement helps to improve your circulation and it can help keep your muscles long and strong. Break up your day by trying the following: stand up and walk around for a few minutes, refill your water, deliver a message in person, take the stairs, stretch and go for a 20 min walk with your colleagues as part of your lunch break.

5. Get a Sitting Desk that Converts to a Standing Desk

Yes, you can get a desk with treadmill attached to it. It might might not fit in your office. However, there are other options. An adjustable height desk gives the user the option of sitting or standing as needed. Chairlines in Vancouver has options to convert a regular desk into a standing desk. Also, I just discovered a very cool high tech desk designed by former Apple employees. It remembers your positions and reminds you to stand! The Stir Kinetic Desk will start shipping in early 2014 (it is on my wish list).

Alfred Ball

CEO | Practicing Kinesiologist | Certified Fascial Stretch Therapist. He founded Lifemoves in 2007. He has been a Practicing Kinesiologist and Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach with the NSCA for over 15 years. When he isn't helping people regain their strength and confidence to move with ease he is hanging out with his wife and young son, writing, or training for his next endurance running race. His big audacious goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

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