Does your job find you sitting most of the day? While sitting can seem restful, staying in one position for long periods of time can cause strain and injury to your muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments. Sustained sitting can take a toll on your neck and lower back where continued compression on the spinal discs restricts their nutrition and can contribute to premature degeneration. Also hanging off your body as you get tired and slouch takes the same toll on the bodies structures.

Therefore, if you do have to sit at work, what things can you do to stay pain free? Try to take the stress off your back and body with these simple and effective tips:

Take frequent breaks.

Try to take regular breaks from sitting. Get up and take a short walk outside or around the office. Stretch every hour or two even if only for a couple of minutes. Just enough to affect the tissue and keep stress off the joints.

Maintain good posture as much as possible.

Pay attention to your posture as much as possible. Sitting incorrectly puts strain on your back and neck, decreases blood flow to your muscles, and accelerates fatigue. Practice “active sitting” when you are sitting unsupported with your feet flat on the ground in front of you, your back straight, your shoulders down and back, and your chin parallel with the floor. This type of posture will strengthen the “core” muscles of your abdomen, sides, and back to reduce the strain on other areas. The stronger your core muscles, the easier it will be to maintain good posture. When you are using a good office chair make sure that you sit right into the back of the chair in order for the back of the chair to support you spine in a neutral position and you do not hang off the structures of your spine. That way you can sit comfortably for longer without as much fatigue.

Choose a good office chair.

An important aspect in preventing injury and strain to your body is to be able to alter your sitting positions throughout the day. An investment in a good office chair is a must. The right chair should:

  • Be easily adjustable to conform to your specific size.
  • Adapt to support your spine in various working positions.
  • Have a backrest that supports your lower back.
  • Have armrests if they are appropriate for you desk and type of work. Your shoulders should be relaxed with the elbows lightly resting on the armrests. Try not to lean on them.
  • Have a front edge to the seat that curves downward to promote proper posture.

Are stability balls good at the desk?

I hear more and more patients asking about using a stability ball at the office desk. A ball is a great exercise tool to help you work out at home or at the gym; however, it should not replace a quality ergonomic chair at your workstation. If you do try the ball to work be sure to:

  • Use the ball only for short periods. Try 20 minutes at one time to start. As you build up some stamina you can add 20-minute chunks as you progress.
  • Use your core, back, and oblique abdominal muscles to maintain straight “active” posture as described above.
  • Stop when your muscles feel tired as you will start to slouch and hang off the structures of your spine.

Be warned, sitting on a stability ball instead of a chair can actually increase the pressure on your back, especially if your core muscles lack endurance. Therefore, sitting a long time on the ball may lead to greater discomfort in your lower back, especially if you slouch and do not realize it. Please do not use a ball if you have osteoporosis, balance, or low back problems. Stability balls are not for everyone. Consult a chiropractor if you have any pre-existing injury or health problems that could impact your balance or stability.

Having a safe and productive work environment does not have to be difficult. Try to take the necessary steps to ensure good posture at all times and practice, practice, practice maintaining it. : )