Did you know that low back pain is the most commonly presented condition to a Chiropractor? This is because low back pain affects all ages and has been estimated to affect 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives (Spinal Manipulation for Low Back-Pain. NCCIH 2013). Additionally, low back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work days (Low Back Pain Fact Sheet. NINDS 2017). Pain in the low back can originate from the muscles, ligaments, intervertebral disc, joints, bones, degeneration, nerves and sacroiliac joints.
Common causes of lower back pain such as a herniated lumbar disc, isthmic spondylolisthesis, degenerative lumbar disc and spinal lumbar stenosis can also cause pressure on the sciatic nerve resulting in sciatica symptoms. Sciatica symptoms can include back and nerve pain along the sciatic nerve commonly referring down the legs resulting in weakness, change of sensation and/or pins and needles. For more information on chiropractic care for sciatica treatment read this article.
Many causes of these problems are often lifestyle related and preventable. One
example is occupational stress related to sedentary desk work ie. Sitting!!! As we no longer lead the “hunter-gatherer” lifestyle of our ancestors this combined with an increasing reliance on computers, we are spending most of the day physically inactive.
This is made worse if the workstation set up does not allow for a proper posture.
Good ergonomics are essential in any workplace from manual handling warehouse workers to the office-bound worker. In fact, failure to address office ergonomics can lead to a range of problems including chronic neck and back pain, repetitive strain injuries, numbness in the arms and hands and osteoarthritis (DJD). We here at Back to Front Chiropractic recommend having regular chiropractic adjustments and daily exercises. This, when combined with good workplace ergonomics, including high quality ergonomic office equipment is key in preventing work related health problems.
The key elements to consider are:
- A good quality ergonomic chair that helps maintains the forward curve (lordosis)
of the lower back also known as lumbar support – this can also be achieved by
placing a small pillow in the sway of the back. The chair should also allow you to
lean back without the low back losing the forward curve.
- The use of hands free phone headsets to avoid ‘crooking or hiking’ the phone
between the head and shoulder.
- Knees should be positioned so they are slightly lower than the hips.
- Feet should be flat on the floor or a suitable footrest.
- An ergonomic keyboard and mouse that can be easily reached with the elbows at
- Typing material positioned at computer screen height and moved from side to
side on a regular basis.
- Shoulders should be relaxed without slouching.
- The top of the monitor should be in line with your eyes when sitting upright.
- Set the monitor settings so it is easy to read, without being too bright.
Note in Picture A Joe is in the ideal posture maintaining the points taught above. Picture B She has lost the natural curves of her spine, she is slouching forward and her legs are twisted. This is going to lead to postural related problems in the future.
- Avoid sitting too close to air conditioning vents.
- It is ideal if you can see your screen and also out of a window- re-focusing on
objects far away periodically can reduce eyestrain.
- Swivel chairs prevent excessive twisting of the spine.
- Being able to touch type is an advantage because it reduces the amount of
forward head bending in the neck.
- No matter how well the ergonomic set up for your office, the body is designed to
move. It is important to regularly change your posture and to move about at least
every 20-30 minutes. An easy thing to do is set a reminder on your computer or
phone for every 20-30 minutes. Then get up and walk around the office or house
for a minimum of 30 seconds. The Chiropractic Association of Australia (CAA)
has produced the Straighten Up App to make this easier. Download for free via
- Standing desks can also be implemented as well, the idea being to break up this
sitting slumped posture throughout the day. One thing to consider with a standing
desk is a cushioned mat instead of a solid floor. When changing from a sitting to
standing desk don’t rush into it trial out for example a 50/50 ratio of 30 minutes
standing then 30 minutes sitting and try to gradually build up over time.
- A standing stool also allows you to sit while maintaining an upright posture at
your standing desk.
Note at our reception area at Back to Front Chiropractic our receptionists are always standing or using the standing stool. Modeled by our lovely receptionist.
If you can implement these strategies at work and home we can reduce the chance of developing health issues in the future. If you have any questions about your workrelated postures please contact your local chiropractor to see if they can help.