Florida Pain Medicine is a rotation site and teaching facility for USF Health ACGME Pain Medicine Fellowship and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency.

5 Spine Health Tips for Working at a Desk

Sitting at your desk for hours at a time places tremendous stress on your lower back and the muscles supporting your spine. And chances are, the work you do at your desk, like using a computer, strains your neck.

Working at your desk day after day ultimately leads to degenerative problems in your spine. Then you start to suffer from chronic pain.

Here at Florida Pain Medicine, we help many patients find relief from their spinal pain, but we’d rather help you avoid the back and neck problems caused by prolonged sitting. The following five tips can protect your spine while working at your desk.

Get a comfortable, ergonomic chair

If you spend a lot of time at your desk, it’s essential to get a chair that’s a good fit for you and supports your back. The best way to do that is to go to an office store and try out their chairs. Don’t depend on an online description because a chair may sound perfect, but not feel right when you sit in it.

Look for a chair that has lumbar support, can recline, and isn’t too high (your feet should be flat on the floor). When you sit with your back against the back of the chair, you should still have space between the edge of the seat and the back of your legs to maintain optimal blood flow.

A reclining chair helps your back because you put less pressure on the discs in your lower spine when you sit in a slightly reclined position. If that isn’t comfortable, the next best choice is to balance on the front of your chair.

Evaluate the size and layout of your desk

Most desks are a standard height, but if you’re too short or tall, you may want to invest in an adjustable desk so that you can lower or raise it to fit you and your chair.

You also want to be sure the desk is large enough to arrange your computer, books, papers, and other essential paraphernalia, while also leaving space for writing. Make sure that you don’t have to overreach or twist into an awkward position to do your work.

Once you have a chair and desk that fit, the next step is making sure your computer is arranged to be ergonomically correct for your body.

Practice good computer ergonomics

Few things will strain your spine (and your shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands) as quickly as poor ergonomics while working at a computer.

Make sure your monitor is directly in front of you and at eye level. You also want your mouse and keyboard to be positioned so that your arms hang down from your shoulder close to your body, and your elbow is bent at a right angle. Don’t type with your arms held high or stretched out because that strains your shoulder, neck, and upper spine.

Get persistent about good posture

Have you ever noticed that you begin your workday sitting tall with good posture, but as the day goes on, you start slouching or leaning on your elbow? Or, if you’re like many people, you may not pay attention to your posture and find that you frequently slouch.

Slouching and leaning to one side stretch your spinal ligaments beyond their normal limits. Poor posture also places an incredible strain on the spinal discs.

Good posture goes hand-in-hand with sitting properly. To avoid back pain, practice sitting upright with your back against the back of the chair and keep your feet flat on the floor. Crossing your legs rotates your pelvis, which strains your back and leads to spinal misalignment.

Take breaks and move around

One of the most important tips we can give you for keeping your spine in good shape and for maintaining your overall health is to take regular breaks.

You need to take the pressure off your spine, stand up, stretch, move your muscles, and get your circulation pumping on a regular basis. We recommend taking a short break every 30 minutes.

Another option is to get a sit-to-stand desk so you can occasionally get off your chair and stand while working. Or, if changing your desk isn’t an option, consider a desktop converter that sits on your desk and raises your computer.

If you develop back or neck pain, we have a wide range of advanced therapies that alleviate your pain and help to restore your health. To learn about your pain treatment options, call Florida Pain Medicine, or schedule an appointment online.

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