Back pain isn’t exclusive to blue-collar workers with physically laborious jobs. White-collar workers can suffer from it as well. In fact, research shows about one-third of all office workers will experience back pain in a 12-month period.
If you work in an office, you’ll probably spend a large portion of your time sitting, which can take a toll on your spinal column and its supporting tissues. Many people assume that sitting is good for their back, but this isn’t necessarily true. Sitting, especially for long periods, is actually bad for your back because it compresses your spinal column. When you sit for long periods, your spinal column will essentially remain in a “squished” state where its intervertebral discs are all packed tightly together, resulting in back pain. You can prevent back pain when working in an office, however, by taking a few precautions.
Evaluate the Ergonomics of Your Office Chair
To prevent back pain, you must use a high-quality and ergonomic office chair. According to a survey conducted by Fellowes, the average office worker sits for four to nine hours each day. Over the course of a year, that translates into 67 days of sitting. If your office chair isn’t ergonomically designed, all that sitting can contribute to back pain.
How do you know if your office chair is ergonomically designed? Ergonomics refers to a product or place that’s designed to meet the needs of a human worker. Regarding office chairs, ergonomic features include a lower cushion for lumbar support, an adjustable height, a five-point rolling caster system, and a supportive bottom. If your office chair lacks these features, or if your office chair causes back pain or discomfort, you may want to replace it.
Use Your Office Chair’s Armrests
Assuming your office chair has armrests – which it should – using them will help stabilize your spine so that it’s less susceptible to pain and injury. Armrests do more than just support your arms and elbows; they support your spinal column as well. You can see for yourself by propping your arms on the armrests, followed by lowering the armrests. Upon lowering the armrests, your shoulders will immediately drop. And as your shoulders drop, your spinal column will compress.
Studies show that using an executive leather office chair’s armrests can reduce the amount of weight placed on the worker’s spinal column by up to 10%. Unfortunately, not all office workers use them. Neglecting to use your office chair’s armrests will only increase the amount of weight placed on your spinal column, which may cause or contribute to back pain.
With that said, you may need to adjust your office chair’s armrests for proper ergonomics. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the following problems can arise with improperly adjusted armrests