Office Back Pain Prevention

We’ve talked about how headsets can prevent pains in the neck, and how monitors can prevent eye strain, but we have yet to talk about the “backbone” of work ergonomics: back pain prevention.

Because our backs are involved in every function we perform at work–sitting, standing, lifting, reaching, pushing and pulling–they are easily neglected, yet are such a vital part of our well-being and comfort.  As the cold weather slowly approaches and aches and pains seems to appear out of nowhere, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your back health and apply these simple back pain prevention techniques.

When sitting

  • Be sure your workspace is adjusted to accommodate your height and seating position.  You may need your monitor lifted, or your chair lowered, to ensure that you are viewing your computer at comfortable eye-level.
  • Desk components, such as keyboard placement, should encourage a natural posture and position. The keyboard should be placed directly in front of the user, and the mouse should be placed close to the body.
  • Consider using specially designed tools like monitor lifts, keyboard mats, and mouse platforms.

When standing

  • If you have a job that requires a lot of standing, comfortable shoes and mats are key.  Place ergo mats in places where people stand for long periods of time (like copy machines and filing cabinets) to provide extra cushioning.  Don’t lock out your knees when standing, and try to shift your posture or stretch every few minutes.

When lifting

  • Lift with your legs, not your back.
  • If lifting an item down (off a shelf), get help, as it may be hard to tell how heavy an item is.  In the future, put commonly reached for items on a shelf that is no higher than shoulder height.
  • Know what your limits are, and don’t try to lift anything that is too heavy for you.
  • Avoid twisting and reaching when lifting.  This can do some serious damage to your back.

When reaching

  • Avoid reaching by keeping items commonly used close-by, and keep stored items between hand and shoulder height.
  • Place items close-in so you aren’t over-reaching for them at your desk.
  • Position shared items at a compromise between tall and short employees.

When pushing/pulling

  • Know your limits and do not push or pull loads that are too heavy.  Carts, dollies, and hampers can make a heavy load much more manageable, but only if they are in good working condition and on a smooth surface.
  • When possible, avoid turns, inclines, and declines.
  • Clear all pathways ahead of time.

Keeping these tips in the “back” of your mind, can help you prevent back discomfort or a potential back injury.

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