Work Hard, Keep Moving, Save your spine!

Office spine back pain

Sami Karam – Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Over 70% of our patients that come into our clinic are victims of a “mostly sitting”, sedentary job, which has resulted in Lower Back Pain (LBP). Even though going to work can already be a pain for some, not actively pursuing an ergonomically friendly workplace environment, and increasing your physical activity will make every movement painful. Not only is sitting down for hours on end at work resulting in lower back pain, or spine pain, but recent research has also linked sedentary lifestyles with an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Here’s what you need to know about desk jobs:

  1. Many people are often in jobs they enjoy, but it forces them behind a desk. This has the potential to wreak havoc with your spinal health.
  2. The sedentary, sit down lifestyle is NOT what the body was built for. We were built to MOVE.
  3. Most workplaces won’t bend over backwards to ensure your comfort. It’s your responsibility, so take control, and boost your health and productivity.
  4. Follow some simple guidelines that blend into your workday for better health and increased output.

More Movement, More Strength

Our bodies were not made to sit down behind a desk in the office from 9am-5pm, go home and sit down for dinner for another hour, and then sit on the couch and watch TV. This sedentary lifestyle has caused our muscles to slowly deteriorate and shorten, weaken our movement, and cause short and long-term damage.

The 30-minute exercise you may do every day (let’s face it, every second day) won’t undo the stiffness caused by 8hrs of sitting. If you’re sitting on an ergonomically unfriendly chair, doing repetitive motions, with your body in a static position, without movement breaks spread throughout the day, your body will still weaken over time despite your morning jogs.

Weakness is the enemy! It causes short term injury and it accelerates its longer-term (and much meaner) brother, Arthritis. Most patients ask me how they can fix Arthritis, my response is you can’t. But what you can do is slow it right down and manage it extremely well by staying STRONG and MOBILE.

Take Control Of Your Office Space And Your Spine

Most employers care for your office space setup about as much as you care for working through lunch. Your best setup has to be specific to you, so it’s really up to you to make them aware of the productivity benefits of your comfort. There are some small changes you could make, that cost almost nothing, and they will make a big impact. Check out our handout for tips on setting up your space so it’s just right for you.

The next step is to get your chair right. This is highly variable based on your comfort. There’s no real right, but there are a few wrongs.

  1. Chair should not be too low so that your knees are higher than your hips
  2. The back of the chair should not allow you to lean back and slouch. It should keep your lower back firmly upright
  3. The arms of the chair should not stop you from moving the chair forward into the desk cavity

Other than that, most other chair options are creature comforts, and it definitely pays to be comfortable. And remember your mother screaming in your ear to sit up. So sit up, and don’t slouch.

And when you do chat to your boss about that new $300 chair you found online, make sure to tell them how it will boost your productivity.

Office back pain work

Here’s How to Get Moving At Work and improve your spine

So now you’re at work, and you want to be productive. You want to ace the project, finish on the deadline, make the meeting, and then go for a drink after. And quite frankly, whilst we understand it’s good to stretch and it always feels good when we move and stretch, we always forget. I mean, we are there to work. And if you enjoy your job, you want to be engrossed in it.

So the answer is to create a workplace that forces you to move and that won’t stifle your productivity. Make the choices that force you to move. Here are some tips:

  1. If you drive, park 1km away from work and walk. (Ladies please, not in your heels). Also, take the stairs when possible.
  2. Place things that you will need through your workday away from you. Your water bottle goes in the kitchen, same with your lunch. Go drink and eat there. Be far away from the printer (or any other used devices), it will force you to get up.
  3. One 5 min stretch break between morning and lunch. And another between lunch and end of business. It will boost your productivity and reset your brain function. That task you were stuck on will all of a sudden become a breeze.
  4. Stretch the front of the hips and the front of the chest. Check this video out.
  5. Have lunch. Fatigue is a big factor in injury and it reduces productivity. Eat up a meal consisting good proteins, carbs and healthy fats.

You definitely weren’t made to be stiff and weak. Take control of your work environment and make it into an experience that will improve your health. Not only will you beat pain, but you’ll see your enjoyment and productivity skyrocket.

Dr. Sami Karam Osteopath

A bit about the Author

Dr. Sami Karam
Osteopath

A little extra about me. I’ve been a qualified Osteopath since 2004. I’ve been playing football ever since I could remember and I have a passion for it. I’ve played at the highest level in the NSW State League at both Youth and Senior levels, and have also been Head Physician at numerous State League Clubs. I’ve travelled internationally and consulted with Sports academies in Barcelona and Italy. I have a special interest in Strength and Conditioning for footballers, as I believe it gives them an edge in their physical competition. My passion involves bringing all of this knowledge into every single treatment that I provide for all athletes. If you feel that I can help you and want to reach out to me, just click here.