by Richard Hollis
Being taller than average can make you more prone to back pain. Desks, chairs and beds are often designed around “average build”. Some furniture is adjustable though and you should make sure it’s adjusted for you.
It is worth following a few rules for your workstation as closely as possible to help reduce discomfort.
- Have your chair height adjusted so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees. This means some of your weight is transferred forwards through your knees and feet rather than all through your back.
- Make sure your keyboard and mouse are used with your upper arms relaxed by your side and your shoulders relaxed. Reaching for your equipment means the shoulder muscles have to contract and the arm muscles stretch, increasing the chances of tension and pain arising.
- Your screen should be directly in front of you, at arm’s length and with the top of the screen (not the monitor) at eyebrow height.
- Move more. Have a change in posture at least once an hour. Try standing if a colleague comes to speak to you, the phone rings or you are reading a paper document. Go for a walk at lunchtime rather than sitting down.
The right kind of exercise is also important. Whether you are already exercising or not nearly everyone with back trouble can improve things by improving spinal and core mobility and strength. It’s best to get some guidance from a qualified person to make sure you are doing the correct exercises for you, but improving your core and spinal muscle and strength and flexibility are central to any back exercise plan. This can be done at a class eg pilates, yoga, the gym or at home; what’s important is finding a way that suits you. This increases the chances of you actually doing these exercises!
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says that manipulation from a chiropractor, osteopath or specially trained physiotherapist should be part of effective care for back pain alongside exercises. A short course of specialist treatment will often restore strength and flexibility to the back allowing you to get back to full activity. Once you have the initial problem under control and the pain has resolved there is some evidence that a periodic session of treatment can help prevent back pain from recurring in many people.