Back pain at the office is common in work environments where people spend long hours sitting in front of a desk. Sitting is not ergonomic and can both create back pain as well as aggravate a current condition. While employers are starting to custom fit workstations to fit each individual employee, you might just be better off standing. Standing while you work has numerous benefits, including a reduced amount of back pain. When you stand, your hip flexors are able to release and it takes pressure off your low back. It seems like a simple solution, and yet, there is more to it than simply doing your job upright. From the shoes you wear to the height of your desk, there are some factors you need to consider if you want to make the most of standing to reduce back pain.
Shoes and Back Pain
Not all shoes are created equal. While you don not need to run out and buy expensive orthopedic footwear, good shoes will make standing more comfortable. Make sure your shoes fit properly and have good arch support. Alternately, slip in your own orthotics or over-the-counter arch support insoles. You want to make sure that your toes have room to move. Many people’s feet will swell by the end of the day, so having a bit of wiggle room is important. Avoid wearing heels as they tend to put more pressure on the back.
The Height of Your Desk and Back Pain
If you have control over the height of your workstation, you want to make sure it is setup to decrease back pain. You want the top surface of your desk to be lower than your elbows. Keep in mind the added height that your keyboard will create. Ultimately, you are trying to avoid having to shrug your shoulders up so that your arms are at the right height. If you have an adjustable desk, play around with the height until it feels just right.
Footrests and Back Pain
You may notice how some bars have a piece of pipe around them that people just know they can put their foot on. These intentional footrests make standing more comfortable. This is because they offset the pressure that the back experiences while you are standing. So if possible, get a standing workstation that has some sort of footrest. Alternately, place a small stool below your desk and use that as a footrest instead.
Your Computer Screen and Back Pain
Just like when you are sitting at a desk, it is important to position your computer screen correctly while standing. Improper positioning of your screen can cause you to take up forward head posture. This occurs when the head is thrust forward in space. Forward head posture puts strain on the muscles of the neck. You may experience headaches, stiff neck muscles and upper back tension as a result. Be sure to position your computer screen in such a way that you are not leaning forward to see it.
Standing Posture and Back Pain
With the perfect workstation setup, you still need to do the work of standing properly. Slouching while standing will aggravate your back just as much as slouching while sitting does. Stand upright with your shoulders back and your chin tucked in just slightly. Keep your knees micro bent and engage your core muscles so that you feel your belly lift up and in. It is as if you are standing with your back against a wall. If you are new to standing while you work, consider setting reminders to adjust your posture.
Standing and Productivity
Not only should spending your day standing while you work reduce your back pain, it should also make you more productive. As you will be more conscious of your posture, chances are you will be in a better position to breathe properly. Also, all the min-adjustments that you make while standing will keep your body alert. Last but not least, a decrease in your back pain means that you will be able to focus on getting your work done. Being more productive at work will reduce stress levels and that, in turn, means even less back pain. Think about how you can make the transition to standing at the office to reduce your back pain now. The short- and long-term benefits will improve how you work. This also means that you don’t have to take your office back pain home with you once you leave the office.