Since it’s my job to keep people healthy, what better time than the beginning of the new year. People don’t realize the way they work at their computer is a big contributor to back problems, so here are a few simple ways to keep your back pain free while (and after) you work …
The number of patients that see me for back and neck pain has grown tremendously over the last ten years. Many don’t realize that how they work at their computer may be the problem. Some injuries are mild — some less so, but the fact is that as long as there are computers and people with spines sitting at them there will be some discomfort at some point.
This may sound rather daunting, but despite what you have just read, there is a way to stay pain free. It will only take you about 15 minutes a day and requires very little thinking or expenditure of energy — it’s more about “non-doing.”
1. Stand up for 30 seconds every half hour — slowly bend down and touch your toes and then raise your hands up high over your head. This total of sixty seconds an hour (8 minutes or so of your work day) will bring your chances of getting back neck or shoulder pain down bare minimum of 50%. Sounds easy? It is — but only if you do it.
2. Support behind low back. Posture takes a beating when you’re at the computer. If you do not have a great supportive chair and an ergonomically correct computer set-up, do it yourself. Put a lumbar roll or pillow or towel or such behind your lower back. This will automatically straighten you up and take all of the pressure off of your low back as well as your neck and shoulders. Those trapezius muscles which can feel like sheet rock will soften over a period of time.
3. Breathe. I talk about this a lot. It is very simple and something you know how to do. Next time you’re at your computer for a long time, check in on your breathing. You’ll find that, despite all your years of “practice,” you are barely breathing at all. This is not uncommon — the busier and more focused we get (especially at the computer) the shorter our breathing becomes. When the breathing shortens the muscles contract and have a field day. The pain you feel in your upper shoulders while at the computer come mostly from shallow breathing. The more shallow the breathing gets, the more our shoulders rise. The more they rise, the more pain you will have tomorrow. Take a deep slow breath periodically. As you do it you’ll feel your shoulders dropping and relaxing. This is the quickest and most efficient way to stay pain free.