We are often adopting poor postures for greater amounts of time than we used to, mainly due to hi-tech gadgets including computers and smart phones. Sitting a lot in bad positions puts an unnatural load on the lumbar discs, the building blocks of our spine in our lower back. Problems with lumbar discs can be painful and debilitating but are surprisingly simple to avoid and manage.
We know that loss of the natural curves of the spine puts excess pressure on the discs. Loss of the natural curves happens when we are slumped forward in sitting for instance at the computer. This position involves loss of the neck and lower back curves and if this goes on for hours – can lead to overload on the discs resulting in pain.
On the contrary, our spine and the discs can withstand considerable loads in a neutral position. So maintaining the natural curves of the spine whenever you are engaging in any activity, including sitting at a computer desk will help avoid that onset of pain in the back.
In the office, there are 2 very important things to remember in order to protect your lumbar discs and avoid lower back pain:
- Maintain the natural inward curve of the lumbar area (lower back). If you reduce the time you spend slumped in your chair by even 10 percent percent each day, you will reduce the likelihood of lower back pain and will eventually find that the healthier positions will help to form new habits which take less effort over time.
- Move around the office as much as possible and avoid ‘prolonged’ positions in 1 place. We know that by moving around adopting different positions and using the major muscle groups in you arms and legs, you not only help to unload the discs in the spine but you also you reduce the perception of pain you may have. Movement and exercise are effective tools to help lessen the perception of aches and pains. So use any excuse to move around the office. –
So here are a few tips to help you look after your back in the office:
- Make it easy to maintain the natural inner curve of your lower back:
- Support your gadget so that you are looking ahead not down.
- Adjust your back rest to support your lower back and sit with your bottom right at the back of the chair.
- Add a rolled up towel or lumbar roll across your lower back if you need extra back support.
2. Move around as much as possible. Try and get up from your chair for 10 minutes every hour
- Set a timer to help keep a track of the time
- Take phone calls in standing and walk around the office
- Put the rubbish bin outside the door
- walk in your lunch break,
- stand up for meetings and morning tea,
- walk to deliver a message to another colleague.
- Invest in a sit to stand desk
Here are a few exercises you can do to help:
Thoracic extensions in sitting
Sit up straight on a chair.
Place your hands behind your head and extend your upper back over the top of the chair.
Hold this position.
Back Extension in Standing
Stand with your legs at hip width apart and straight.
Place your hands on your hips.
Lean your body backwards, trying to arch in the lower back as much as you can, lifting your chest up towards the ceiling.
Try to avoid allowing your hips to swing forwards too far.
Hold this position before returning to the start position.
Try 5–10 repetitions 3–4 times a day.