Workplace ergonomics for back and neck pain

We see countless patients every week that work in offices or even at home on the computer for extended hours every single day. Many of these patients have a terrible ergonomic layout for their desk or computer. There are a few simple and effective changes that can be made to drastically improve your ergonomic structure while working.

Why are workplace ergonomics important?

The most common word I hear from patients with poor ergonomics at work is that they feel “stiff”. They sit in one position which is typically rounded over and looking forward or down for dozens of hours a week. The problem arises when this becomes a habit for months or even years. The spine, muscles, and accompanying tendons and ligaments will eventually start to pull into that hunched over position and become chronically shortened or lengthened leading to that feeling of stiffness. In many cases, this leads to accelerated degeneration in the spine and overall massive decreases in spinal mobility.

Arthritis and movement are like a seesaw. As movement chronically decreases, arthritis will start to develop. When arthritis develops, it does not go away. The key is to stop the formation of arthritis before it becomes a problem in the first place.

What can I do today to improve my workplace ergonomics?

The next step is to optimize your workspace. A desk that can change heights will be a tremendous first step. You want your laptop or workspace to be about eye level so you do not have to hunch over to look at it.

The next concept is to acquire a chair that has the ability to be at different heights. A normal chair height, a barstool height, and standing are the three positions you will want to rotate through. As you switch through chairs or standing, you will move your desk height to meet you at eye level.
I recommend switching from sitting, barstool height, and standing about every 40-45 minutes. This will keep your body from being used to one position and wanting to always push into the forward hunched posture of that position.

Alternative options for a chair would be using a larger boso exercise ball to sit on. The flexibility of the ball allows some side-to-side movement and also engages the core musculature instead of slouching into a chair.

Consistency over time is the key to workplace ergonomics. You cannot cycle through different chair and desk heights for a few days and expect to feel better. It has to be consistent over weeks and months and become part of your normal routine. Start forming your good workplace habits today!

We see countless patients every week that work in offices or even at home on the computer for extended hours every single day. Many of these patients have a terrible ergonomic layout for their desk or computer. There are a few simple and effective changes that can be made to drastically improve your ergonomic structure while working.

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