When you’re working in the office at least five days a week, this involves many hours sitting down at your desk. Depending on how you sit and your movement throughout the day, it can wreak havoc on your back!
You might not even notice the effects right away because for younger people, their bodies can take a good degree of punishment before they even register it. However, for someone older where the aches and pains are more readily felt, then it’s noticeable through stiffness, pain and other discomforts that make it difficult to sit still for very long.
In this article, we consider how office workers can improve their posture and make office life more pleasant to get through long days unscathed.
Is Your Posture Correct?
Are you sitting up straight in your chair, or are you slouched a little? If you’re overweight, it’s natural to slouch, but it will hurt your back because it’s not properly supported.
Sitting up straight means your ears are in line with your shoulders, and they should look central. The lower part of your back should have a small arch (like with your feet) where it bends inwards. When you don’t sit up properly, it will no longer have that arch. Have someone check your posture and take a photo for you to see how you’re sitting day to day.
Also, if your chair doesn’t have lumbar spine support (at the bottom of the spine), then get a small narrow cushion that can fit along the width of your body to support the lumbar area. It’s commonly the worst affected area by bad posture over time.
For Men: How Comfortable is Your Work Attire?
The need to be “suited and booted” (for the uninitiated – wearing a suit, tie and formal shoes) is still fairly standard in most businesses today. Whilst your office might have a casual workday once a week, you’re probably not lucky enough to enjoy a more casual outfit like tech workers often have.
When clothing is too tight in one area versus another, it can cause your body to adjust its seated position, putting undue pressure in areas that it shouldn’t. To avoid this, make sure that the attire is comfortable rather than tight.
The shirt shouldn’t be so tight that it restricts bodily movement when tucked in. Also, while it’s standard to wear a tie that’s reasonably tight around the neck, that doesn’t mean it should have a stranglehold on you either!
For the suit, it needs to fit well but not be a narrow fit so much that it’s awkward. While you probably won’t wear the jacket when sitting down, the trousers should fit well but not be too tight around the waist.
For Women: Are You Fitted Comfortably?
For women, many of the same things apply. Business clothing needs to sit well to not cause constriction or discomfort anywhere. If a skirt is too tight, then the rest of the body may shift position to compensate, which can cause extra back strain.
Similarly, a common issue for women is that their bra size is wrong. This can be because they were never measured properly or equally due to changing size through pregnancy or weight loss/gain. Any of these issues can create a need to get remeasured and select a different bra size. Otherwise, the extra weight from a larger bust or a lack of adequate support can create fresh back issues.
It’s also important to make sure you wear your bra correctly. For instance, the back straps should fit level across your back and not point upwards. Also, the front centre piece must sit flush with your body, not create a gap between the bottom and the skin beneath. You can find guidance on the correct bra sizing and fitting for women online if you’re unsure whether they’re choosing correctly.
Lifting Objects? How to Do It Right
You might be required to lift some boxes within the office or to shift a desktop computer from one desk to another. If the item is at a lower level or has to be lifted from the ground, ensure that you bend your knees to lower your height while keeping your back straight. Your knees should reach a 90-degree angle to your torso area. This ensures that you don’t bend your back at a curved angle when lifting anything.
Avoid curving your back forward when leaning down to pick up a heavy object, as this prevents you putting undue strain on your spine. It also stops the shoulders getting hunched over or rolling forward.
If you can, wear a back support whenever you need to lift items in the office. This can be requested from the personnel department or office manager if you’re regularly being asked to move heavy objects. Also, if you already have suspected back problems, you can refuse to carry out requests to lift items. If necessary, get a note from your doctor to confirm the condition.
Perform Some Light Exercises at Your Desk
When you’ve got to get some things done and it’s not time to take a stroll around the office to stretch your legs, then some exercises at or near your desk are the next best thing.
Exercises like the seated reverse crunch – which is where you sit down and lift one leg up and rest it across the other seated leg – is a good way to stretch out.
A seated leg raise is another one that can be done if you have enough room between your desk and one opposite you. Raising both legs and extending them out in front of you for a few seconds makes for some good leg strengthening. You can also do it while seated normally, so no one has to know that you’re doing it either.
Try an Exercise Ball
An exercise ball is an oversized plastic ball that you can balance on. It provides an excellent workout for your glutes, legs and feet while seated at the desk.
It takes a little bit of practice to get it right. Some people use both a standard office chair and a medicine ball to balance on. This allows their back to adjust to different ways to sit throughout the day to avoid it stiffening up. Also, sitting on a ball engages the body in a totally new way compared to a standard chair.
Get Your Stretches In
Everyone will benefit from taking periodical time away from the chair to stretch it out! It helps to work out the kinks, move the muscles around and begin to ease any tension in the back. The spine itself is protected by muscles on either side which, when activated, guard the spine. This process also creates a sore feeling when the muscles are being overly sensitive. By using the spine through movement, this reduces these kinds of muscular issues for better spinal health.
Only use stretching that you can do comfortably. Don’t force anything, as you can do yourself an injury. Use light stretches to see what your capabilities are and how much flexibility is already available to you. Then extend a little more to lengthen the tendons and ligaments if they’ve become shortened due to lack of stretching over time.
There are many things you can do to improve your posture and treat your back better at work. While sitting in a supportive chair always helps, there are things we can all do to adjust movement and reduce discomfort during a long workday.