Tackling back pain is something all employers and employees should strive for, especially in the workplace. However, recent research conducted by the Institute for Employment Studies, found that over 50% of individuals reported an increase in aches and pains whilst working from home, with 55% experiencing regular back pain.
Posturite, a market-leading workplace health, wellbeing and ergonomics company, aims to shed light on the common causes of back pain, and share some expert advice on how employers can help decrease risks at work.
A common misconception is that heavy lifting is the main cause of back pain, however, poor posture and lack of movement also makes individuals vulnerable to injury. Other factors may include stress causing tension in the body, and sitting in one position for too long. This is difficult to combat as humans are not built to be sedentary, yet so many of us have jobs involving desk-based work. As a result, it is vital for good ergonomics to be introduced to prevent serious discomfort and problems.
The importance of desk stretches
Not moving enough is a common reason for back pain amongst hybrid workers. Desk stretches are an easy and effective way of helping prevent and reduce back pain. An easy and common example is a seated spinal rotation. Employees should cross their arms over the chest and grab onto their shoulders. Then, they simply need to rotate their upper body from the waist, turning gently from left to right as far as feels comfortable. Many other examples can be found on the Bupa website.
Posturite also recommend having regular intervals away from the desk; small movements such as walking or making a cup of tea and a healthy snack, can help increase energy levels and help when tackling back pain.
Is your office set up right?
Unsuitable and poorly positioned office equipment can cause back pain. Most soft furnishings don’t give the body enough support for many working activities. Incorrectly positioned equipment such as laptops can cause the head to hang forward and create posture strain.
Employers could help by suggesting, or even providing, ergonomic chairs that come with a range of adjustments to help employees find a comfortable sitting position. Importance is given to setting the office chair height so that hips are slightly higher than the knees, keeping feet in contact with the floor, back against the backrest and elbows about desk height. This is because setting a chair height too high or too low can also cause backache, but adjusting the chair appropriately and using a height-adjustable desk can help prevent this.
Using an adjustable laptop stand and separate keyboard can also help, enabling the top of the screen to be positioned at eye level, thus avoiding hunching over.
Additional expert advice
Katharine Metters, Lead Consultant in Ergonomics at Posturite, comments:
“It’s obvious your back and spine are central to your body and not only provide support and stability for your limbs and head, but is also central to everything that you do. It is important to position yourself and support your back well so it can do its job effectively. Having back pain can affect all aspects of your life, so reducing this risk is vital to your health and happiness.”
Katharine Metters, Lead Consultant in Ergonomics at Posturite
Joanne is the editor for Workplace Wellbeing Professional and has a keen interest in promoting the safety and wellbeing of the global workforce. After earning a bachelor's degree in English literature and media studies, she taught English in China and Vietnam for two years. Before joining Work Well Pro, Joanne worked as a marketing coordinator for luxury property, where her responsibilities included blog writing, photography, and video creation.