How To Prevent Health Problems With Back Ergonomics in the Workplace

February 01, 2019

A business woman stretching at her desk.
Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN

Chronic back pain can make it hard to focus on normal workday tasks. As a result, how to prevent health problems — especially when it comes to your back and spine — is a large area of focus in today's workplace. Back pain, one of the most common work-related injuries, often stems from sitting in an office chair all day. Back ergonomics in the workplace is the premise of many emerging products to protect the spine and back from injury.

How To Prevent Health Problems

One of the keys to a healthy back and spine while you work is adjusting your position frequently by not standing in one position or sitting too long, as this slowly wears away at the soft, elastic tissue in your muscles, ligaments and tendons in your back. The key is moving at least every 30 minutes.

If you are at a standing desk, keep your body weight even by shifting your body to the front, back and sides of the feet to fend off chronic back pain and injury. A few good rules of thumb for back ergonomics in the workplace when standing is to avoid unbalanced postures, like leaning to one side, hunching the shoulders forward or tilting the head to one side, like when cradling your phone.

Anti-Fatigue Mat

Bravo! You are getting in more activity with a standing desk. However, if you are using a standing desk, it can stress your back to stand in one position for long periods of time. This is where an anti-fatigue mat comes in. Many anti-fatigue mats are designed with "calculated" terrains for more activity and varied stances, plus they are cushioned, which has been found to facilitate natural, subconscious movement that allows you to focus on work and not think about getting in activity.

Insoles

You may not know it, but your feet absorb a lot of shock from hard floor surfaces. Back ergonomics in the workplace can include insoles in your shoes. Insoles provide comfortable cushioning for your feet and can alleviate stress on your back and spine while you're working at a standing desk. Back pain is typically a symptom of poor posture or spine alignment and insoles can align your body and address the causes with proper, whole body support.

Massage Ball

A massage ball added to an anti-fatigue mat is an interesting way to keep you moving while working at your standing desk. Relax and stimulate your feet with a soothing rub as you relieve the pressure on the bottom of your feet. No longer are you just standing still as you work, you can fidget and flex your foot while on the ball, which can help stimulate circulation, as well as minimize stress. In addition, it can alleviate boredom, as well as keep your back and spine healthy while you work. Many of these mats easily slide under your desk.

Adjustable Keyboard

Typing all day in a stressful position can fatigue your wrists, arms and back. Being able to move your keyboard to match a comfortable height, as well as rest your palms easily on a padded surface is ideal. Keyboards with a curved or wave design can help you type more naturally with less stress on one part of the hand or wrist, which can keep your spine aligned, too. To eliminate back pain and wrist pressure, take periodic breaks away from the keyboard and bend over and let your wrists hang toward the floor and move them in a circular motion for a quick stretch and recharge.

Wrist Cushion

Memory foam wrist cushions can decompress to the shape and pressure of your body as you work at your keyboard, relieving stress on muscles and joints. By providing soft support for your posture, resilient memory foam fabric is a sensible adjunct to any work environment. Plus, the memory foam holds its shape for hours and is durable enough not to split or tear as you work – even with firm, continuous pressure. As always, taking short breaks away from your desk to stretch out your wrists, arms and back is how to prevent health problems over the long run.

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