As much as I love my job, sitting at a desk all day in front of a computer is one of the worst things for my bad back. I think it would be painful for anyone after a while, but I have herniated disks and other problems, so it gets especially painful for me. I can’t really quit my job, so I need to find ways to relieve back pain when I’m working.
Did you know that around 80% of people experience back pain at some point in their lives? For most people. the pain is acute, meaning it comes on from some external cause (a fall, lifting something heavy the wrong way, etc) and goes away within a few days. For others like me, though, it’s a chronic condition, caused by internal issues. I have arthritis in my lower back as well as three herniated discs. My problems began when I was just 13. I wasn’t overweight back then and I didn’t participate in any extracurricular activities that you’d think could lead to back problems.
Working up to 16 hours a day on the computer really makes things worse. I’m sharing a few of my tips for dealing with back pain with you in case you’re dealing with the same issue. I’d also really appreciate it if you could share your best tips with me!
Tips for Relieving Back Pain
Position yourself and your desk for comfort
You know you’re supposed to sit up straight and use good posture, but that’ kind of hard if your keyboard is three feet away from your body and your mouse is a foot away from the keyboard. Move everything to the side for a moment. Sit down at your work space, sit up straight, then position your arms and hands as if you were going to start typing. Note where you naturally place them. Then rearrange your space so that everything is at a more comfortable distance. I have very precise spots for everything on my desk, and I can tell you if my keyboard is even a fraction off. I can’t work until I get everything back in its place.
Get the Best Chair Possible
I know, obvious right? This is high on my list right now. I used to sit in the worst chair ever, a hard kitchen chair. Then boyfriend found me an actual office chair at a yard sale. Now that I’m not as broke, I am planning to get a slightly better office chair, since this one has failing hydraulics (or whatever makes it not fall down). The point is, get the best possible chair that you can afford.
Add support to your chair
If you can’t afford a fabulous chair, you can add support to the one you have. Even if you have a great chair, adding a cushion designed for back pain sufferers can really go a long way to helping relieve back pain at work. I used to sit on a memory foam pillow, which didn’t really do a whole lot. Then SimplyPosture sent me their uSeat™ and BackGuard™ cushions to try out. SO much better than a pillow!
The SimplyPosture uSeat is my favorite. It sits right on your chair and features, as the name suggests, a U-shaped cutout where your tailbone goes. This takes the pressure off that area and helps reduce sciatic nerve pain. It has a nice wide design, so you feel supported all around. It pretty much covers my entire chair. The soft, rounded edges keep your legs comfortable. The whole thing is made of premium special density memory foam. It makes my aging, inexpensive office chair feel more like an expensive model. I love the anti-slip bottom, my pillow was always sliding around but my uSeat doesn’t budge.
The BackGuard is great for in your chair, sofa or anywhere else that you need extra support for your lower back. Like the uSeat, it’s made of premium memory foam. It comes with an adjustable strap so you can secure it to your chair. I tend to lean forward when I’m working, something I’ve actually only noticed since I got the BackGuard. Having it has been a reminder to me to sit up straighter, so my back actually touches it. It provides great extra support and makes the perfect addition to the uSeat.
Get OUT of your chair
One of the most important tips for relieving back pain: get out of your chair as much as possible! Stand up to take phone calls, move to the couch to do tasks you can do on an iPad on your smartphone, take breaks every hour to just stretch a bit. I am SO bad at following this advice, but it’s really important that you not sit there all day long without getting up. You’ll regret it by the end of the day, trust me.
Alternate Heat and Ice
Depending on your particular type of back pain, alternating ice and heat can really help. You shouldn’t keep either on for more than about 20 minute at a time. I use a heating pad during the day that I wedge between myself and the back of my chair. I turn it on for 20 minutes, then give it a break for a bit. The only down side- whenever I get up, the kitten steals my seat. I also use one of those ice pack things that you get at a hospital after surgery. I fill it with ice and strap it to a pillow to keep it in place against my back.
Sounds silly, but breathing can help relieve back pain if you do it right! I’m not saying you should flash back to those Lamaze classes or meditate in the middle of your work day, but take some deep breaths that go all the way down to you belly button. Hold it for a moment, then release. A lot of times, when we’re working intently, we tense up all over without realizing it. Breathing deeply helps us release some of that tension and relax a bit.
Back pain is one of the worst types of chronic pain. That burning, cramping, aching feeling makes it really hard to focus. When it’s really bad, sometimes you just have to call in sick (yes, even when you work at home!). I hope these tips help you out a bit for the rest of the time!
Tell me your tips for dealing with back pain! I can use all the help you can offer!