How your job puts your spinal health at risk
Eight hour plus days behind the computer are a reality for most of us. And while we love productive days, stiff necks and sore backs are unfortunately paired with this. Sounds familiar? Yeah, according to statistics 70% of neck- and back pains have work related causes. And this does not even include the actual physic professions. Nope, we’re talking about how desk jobs cause spinal injuries.
I go to my physical therapist once a month to make sure my neck and back are in check (which I had to learn the hard way when I got an injury two years ago). And since sharing is caring, my girl Lisa Spruit (LS) is going to help us out today! Lisa is a 26-year-old #careerlion who is a physical therapist. Aside from her fulltime job she is also doing a Master’s in Manual Therapy. And yes, she still has a social life. She just bought her dream house with her boyfriend and spent the weekend on a trip to London with her awesome childhood friend (duhh, I am talking about myself here). Without further ado, let’s pick Lisa’s brain about keeping up our spinal health in our office jobs.
How can we recognize symptoms?
LS: “The first one is of course tension and pain in the back and neck area. The symptoms can come from more places than just the obvious though. Complaints about neck pain can also mean tension from the lower part of the head until the upper arm. When it comes to symptoms for back issues, it can mean tension in your butt and hamstrings or even your ankles and toes.
Whenever you’re suffering from symptoms, be careful for the prognostic factors. Prognostic factors have a negative influence on your recovery. Examples of these related to neck complaints are having no control on your work and a high-pressure environment. The latter also influences recovery from back issues.”
How can we prevent injuries?
LS: “Neck and back pains are forms of spinal imbalances that could be caused by poor posture. The best thing of all would be to have a standing desk. However, that isn’t always within the possibilities when you’re not in charge of facility management at your work. Therefore, to prevent injuries it is important to have a good ergonomic posture whenever sitting behind your desk. This entails:
- Your hip, knee and ankle all need to make a 90-degree angle. That means your feet need to be flat on the ground.
- The armrest of your chair has to be on the same height as your desk. You should be able to rest your elbows on both the armrest and the desk comfortably. If you’re shoulders are scrunched up, your desk is still too high. In my case this mean I need to wheel the (adjustable) desk all the way down, especially when a tall co-worker worked at the same desk before me. But whatever, I’d rather feel like a midget and be comfortable!
- Put your display at eye height, otherwise you might be doing something weird with your head.
- Make sure your mouse isn’t too high. Overarching your wrist could lead to elbow injuries. A little cushion could help with this.
Aside from a good posture, make sure to get enough exercise during the day. Try to take a walk during lunch break with co-workers. For social points, you could offer to bring your co-workers coffee every now and then. They will be happy as you’re a great colleague and you’ll be able to take break from sitting, a win-win situation!”
How can we react to injuries?
LS: “There are some exercises that can offer immediate relief. However, it is advised to see a physical therapist that can provide specific advice for your injury. It really depends on the cause of your injury which treatment is suitable.”
A big thanks to Lisa who provided us with some essential knowledge here! When I need an immediate relief I usually like to do a lower back yoga routine from Yoga by Adriene. In just ten minutes I feel much better and relaxed (put it in your favourites for extra fast access, believe me, you do not want to be searching whenever you’re in pain and cranky). What are your best tips to keep moving around the office and prevent your spine from hurting? Let us know in the comments below!