Current statistics show that over seven million working days are lost per year in the UK due to back problems, including lumbar pain, strained muscles or ligaments and more severe spinal injuries. These occur due to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, where a large majority of people spend all their work time sitting down only to go home and sit on the sofa on evenings and at the weekends. If this is you, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of experiencing some form of back pain.
Even if you exercise regularly outside of working hours, it is still vital not to sit in one position for any length of time throughout the day. There are numerous exercises and stretches that you can do at your desk, known as desk yoga. Even without any structured exercises, simply remaining active will help a lot. Walking around the office, running upstairs or performing a few quick stretches on a regular basis will help keep your back healthy for longer.
Any job which requires you to lift heavy objects, even if it is only occasionally, means you should be properly trained in how to do so without causing yourself an injury. If you are unsure of the correct way to lift things, make sure you find out. Your employer has a responsibility to ensure you know how to lift properly.
Take Regular Breaks
Try to take regular breaks from sitting of no less than five minutes in every hour, and make sure you do take them regularly – it is not the same thing to sit for four straight hours then take a twenty minute break. Walk to the water cooler, or across the office to deliver a message to a co-worker rather than emailing them. Most employers now recognise the importance of keeping their staff healthy, so will be amenable to workers taking these five minute breaks away from their desks as an alternative to having staff off sick with back problems.
Maintain Good Sitting Posture
Most workplaces now provide ergonomic office chairs which, when set up correctly, encourage you to sit in a posture that places the least possible amount of stress on your back. Government guidelines suggest that you have the right to demand an ergonomic chair if your job requires you to spend either more than one straight hour per day sitting without getting up, or a total of two hours or more per day sitting down. Your chair should as a bare minimum have adjustable height, back rest and tilt, and the more you can alter it to fit your own personal specifications the better.
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