If you are suffering from general backpain at work and you don’t have a specific back condition the Health and Safety Executive have produced some simple yet effective tips to reduce discomfort during the working day.
Activity is the name of the game and sitting in one position at a desk for the majority of the day engaged in computer use is a likely cause of your aches and pains. Humans are not designed to sit continuously so get up and move around, vary your work and check that your chair is set up to support the natural S-shaped curve of your back.
The HSE gives the following advice to individuals who experience back pain at work:
- try to take regular breaks;
- get up and stretch;
- sit up comfortably in a chair that supports your lower back;
- during computer work, ensure that you adjust your chair height so that your forearms are comfortably resting on the desk and your elbows are roughly at right angles;
- vary your tasks, so that you are trying to avoid the same movements for prolonged periods using the same part(s) of your body.
- co-operate with arrangements your employer introduces to reduce risks. This may be through systems or equipment in place for you to use or a system of reporting accidents, near misses or symptoms of ill health
To maximise comfort when seated check that your existing chair is providing you with the maximum support possible and that you are sitting in it properly. If you have developed some bad habits you might have to actively remember to sit correctly until it becomes natural by checking your posture regularly (From personal experience this can take a week, but is worth the effort!).
Sit back into your seat so that your back is fully supported by the back rest. There should be a 2-3 finger space between the back of your knees and the seat – if your seat is too deep you will creep to the front edge and away from the support of the backrest (we’ve all done it!).
If you have adjustable armrests on your chair make sure that your arm is bent to form a right angle at the elbow when resting on the the armpad. An armrest that is too high will result in you hunching your shoulders and creating discomfort in your shoulders and neck. Without armrests you should still have that right angle shape with your forearms resting on the desk in front of you at your keyboard (if used).
Adjust your seat height to ensure that you can reach your desk comfortably in this position and if necessary get a footrest if your feet can no longer touch the ground. If you wear shoes with different height heels be prepared to adjust your seat height on different days.
Some chairs offer minimal adjustment with the seat adjusting for height and the back rest adjusting for height and forward/backward movement. If you still require more support to avoid back or shoulder aches or discomfort it is worth considering changing your chair for one with more adjustment such as a seat slide for longer legs, seat tilt to allow you to realign your back when seated or a differently shaped backrest or added lumbar support. This might cost a little more than a less adjustable chair but when you think how much more comfortable you will be and therefore how much more productive and it is easily justifiable!
Where you do need to purchase a new chair we offer extensive ranges of made to order chairs where you can add just the options you need to help you sit comfortably. If you use a computer all day look at our Operator Chair Range. For people who engage in a variety of tasks see the Task Chair Range and for those who require more support than the standard ranges see the Posture Support Ranges of chairs developed specifically for back pain. Alternatively contact us to talk through your requirements.