Do your neck, shoulders or back ache from a day working at a computer? You are not alone.

Back Pain Affects 1 In 3 PC Workers

Photo: Stephen Depolo, CC-BY 2.0, via Flickr

Computers can be a pain in the neck (and back and shoulders)!

A 2012 study found that a third of computer workers complained of back, neck or shoulder pain. Sadly, it looks like that situation hasn’t changed.

Recently, I polled my readers, asking them the top 2 questions they had about RSI and ergonomics at their work desk. The clear “winner” of the survey – and by a significant margin – was this question:

“How can I prevent pain or discomfort in my back, neck or shoulders, while sitting at my desk?”

(The survey is still open and you can give your contribution here.)

This shows that the issue of back pain continues to be a concern for many people. It’s certainly a problem I have experienced over my years working in IT. These days, I avoid it most of the time, but if someone adjusts my chair while I’m out of the office, it can take me a day or two to realise.

So what can you do about it?

How To Prevent Back Pain At Your Desk – 5 Steps

Prevention is better than cure, right?

Whilst some people have issues with their spine, the majority of RSI trouble is muscular in nature. Here are 5 steps you can take at your desk to keep your back in working order:

1. Adjust your chair
The most important thing to do is to get your posture right first. If you slouch, stoop or otherwise put your back or neck at an awkward angle, you’re already losing the battle.

You can find out more on how to do that here.

2. Set your monitor to the right height
When sitting upright in your chair and looking straight ahead, your eyes should be level with the approximate top 2-3 cm of the monitor. This will straighten out your neck and avoid scrunching it up.

Getting your neck right reduces pressure on the associated muscles and can help with aches in shoulders and arms, too.


3. Don’t do the twist
Have your monitor straight in front of you and peripherals placed so you don’t have to twist your body while you work.

This will help ensure that your back muscles stay as relaxed as they can be.

4. Take regular breaks
Even with a perfectly adjusted setup, it won’t do you any good if you sit there all day.

Make sure you take a break and get out of your chair on a regular basis (or at the very least, shift around in it).

Once an hour is a good start, but you may need more often than that.

5. Check your setup (again)
Someone else may sit in your chair while you’re away and they or an over-enthusiastic cleaner may adjust it.

Checking your setup on a regular basis, perhaps every morning when you get to work, can help deal with any issues, before they happen.

Conclusion

Fixing your chair and monitor position is a good beginning when dealing with back pain and I’ve only touched the surface. There are plenty of other steps you could take, which I don’t have space to cover here.

If you are struggling with back pain, or RSI, have a look at my new Ergonomic Toolbox training course.

You can join the course here.

Question: How do you avoid back pain in your workplace?

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