In today’s time and age with the wide scale spread of the corporate culture, the majority of the people spend their days working at a desk and in front of a laptop. Despite not having to do anything physical or strenuous that might strain the back directly, this makes people susceptible to back pain irrespective of the age. Long working hours coupled with long commutes only serve to exacerbate the gradual damage that can be caused by having a bad posture.
The ill-effects of sitting with poor posture for a few hours is not immediate, but over time the stress that poor posture places on your spine can lead to anatomical changes in your spine. This, in turn, can provoke back pain through the constriction of your blood vessels and nerves. Back pain due to poor posture is characterised by the following symptoms, firstly, it is worse at certain times of the day. Secondly, it starts in the neck and moves down to the upper and lower back. Thirdly, the pain subsides once you switch positions or stand. And finally, it might coincide with a chair or a new car. However, despite the ill effects of slouching during work or while driving, there are a few remedies to prevent the onset of back pain. These include;
- Straighten your head: Ensure that your head is straight above your neck and shoulders. Straining forward to work on your laptop can put pressure on your spine.
- Change the position of your mouse: Your mouse should be right next to your keyboard. This prevents your wrist and shoulder from over-reaching and twisting.
- Pick a comfortable chair: Pick a chair with good back support and a comfortable cushion at the base so that your tailbone is not subjected to additional pressure.
- Adopt the correct breathing posture: Make sure that when inhaling your stomach moves outwards, away from the spine. And when exhaling, it comes inwards towards the spine. A correct breathing posture maintains the stability of the core, which in turn maintains a correct form for the upper body.
- Sit within reach: Sitting too far away from the laptop can cause you to lean forward while typing and reading, thereby resulting in a curved back which would gradually manifest itself as your default posture while sitting.
- Feet on the floor: Ensure that your feet are planted on the floor in order to ease the tension in your knees and ankles. When your feet are planted on the floor it also ensures that you lean back and use the lumbar support of your chair.
- Take breaks: Getting up to use the washroom, to walk till the water cooler or even to stretch reduces pressure on the spinal disks and boost circulation.
- Stretch your shoulders: Shoulder rolls and shoulder raises help to make your neck more flexible and allows for a greater blood circulation.
- Do not sit cross-legged: Sitting cross-legged makes it difficult to keep your spine straight and shoulders squared, and you risk overstretching the muscles around the pelvis, increasing your risk of varicose veins by interrupting blood flow.
- Do not cradle your phone: Cradling your phone while multitasking puts enormous strain on your neck. This should be prevented by using a Bluetooth headset or headphones.
Most of us get backaches at some point in time caused by repeated activities at work or at home. There is a lot that can be done to prevent this from happening. Being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight are ideally important to have a healthy lifestyle. In addition to this certain simple practices by maintaining a good posture can help go a long way. However, if any of these practices do cause increased pain, it is best to consult a physician.
Dr. Abul Kalam Kolangara Parambath
Specialist General Medicine
Aster Clinic, Abu Hail