If you're reading this, I'm willing to bet you're sitting in an office chair.
There's also a good chance you've been sitting there for a decent amount of time.
Maybe even hours.
Are you comfortable?
Maybe at first, but I bet you aren't as the day goes by.
You're at least feeling some discomfort in your back if you're not having outright aches and pains.
Unfortunately, this is just the way it is.
We go to work, sit in a chair for about 8 hours, and then we go home. Rinse and repeat.
What are we to do
How Long Do We Sit?
A 2013 study found that Americans sit for 13 hours a day on average with the majority of those hours coming at work.
This led the scientific community to coin the term "sitting disease" in reference to the sedentary lifestyles that have come as a result of spending so much time in our chairs.
Research has also shown that the sedentary lifestyle can lead to diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
I get it. We can be as active as we want outside of work, but when we're at the office, we're stuck in that chair.
So what are we to do?
If we have to sit, we need to make the most of it.
Here is an actionable list of things you can do right away to combat back pain while you're at work.
1. Get an Ergonomic Chair
The simple and most obvious thing we can do is to get an ergonomic chair.
An ergonomic chair promotes the proper alignment of the shoulders, hips, and spine.
They're going to set you back a little more than a standard office chair would, but the extra expense is well worth it.
Ergonomic chairs have shown to have an immediate impact on productivity and job satisfaction.
That typically leads to more money for your boss, so it's a win-win. Be sure to tell your boss this when you let him know you want a new chair!
2. Adjust the Chair to YOUR Body
Getting your ergonomic chair is a great first step, but it's not enough.
You will still need to adjust the chair so it fits your body.
If you look around your office right now, you will see people of all shapes and sizes.
So right out of the box, the chair probably isn't going to be set up just right for your body.
Here's what you need to do:
1. Elbow Alignment: Sit in your chair and slide close to your desk. Put your arms on the armrests, and then reach out and set your hands down on your workstation (your keyboard, notebook, etc.)
If your elbows aren't at a 90-degree angle, adjust your chair up or down until they are.
2. Thigh Measurement: When you're sitting in your chair, you should be able to slide your fingers under your thighs at the edge of the chair. If it's too tight, you'll need to invest in a footrest to elevate your feet.
If you happen to be very tall and there is a significant gap, you'll need to raise your chair.
3. Calf Measurement: Sitting in your chair with your bottom pressed against the back, you should be able to squeeze your fist between your calf and the front of the office chair.
If you can't, you'll need to adjust the back of the chair forward. If you're not able to fix it, you may need to invest in some extra lumbar support.
This can be as simple as a rolled up towel you place behind your back.
4. Your Resting Eye Level: Close your eyes. Make sure your head and neck are in a comfortable position, looking forward.
Slowly open your eyes. If you aren't looking at the middle of your computer screen, you need to adjust it so you are.
This reduces the strain on your upper spine.
5. Armrests: You want to be sure to use your armrests because it takes some pressure off of your upper spine and shoulders, and makes you less likely to slouch.
Your armrest should slightly lift your arms at your shoulders. Adjust them accordingly.
3. Office Chair Alternatives
If a new ergonomic chair isn't an option for you, or if you'd like to try something new, there are a couple of alternatives.
Exercise balls have become increasingly popular as replacements for office chairs.
The reasoning behind it is that when you're sitting on the exercise ball, you are continually exercising your core. A strong core helps improve your posture, maintain better balance, and protect against future back injuries.
The verdict is still out as to whether or not they actually work.
Another popular alternative to a new chair is to ditch the chair altogether.
Standing desks are a great alternative to sitting at your desk all day.
The main benefit is obvious; you're no longer sitting. This automatically reduces the negative health risks associated with sitting at your desk all day.
For some people, a standing desk at work won't be an option, but if you're set up in a home office, this is definitely worth looking into.
4. Maintain Good Posture
As minutes in the chair turn into hours, it's easy to start slouching
Try to avoid this.
Even after picking out the perfect chair and getting it properly aligned with our body, it is still important to maintain good posture throughout the day.
Slouching in your chair undoes everything we've accomplished so far, and we might as well go back to our old office chairs.
5. Stay Active
The easiest way to maintain your good posture is to notice when you start to slouch and get up.
Sitting in the same position for a prolonged period isn't good for us, no matter what we've done to make it comfortable.
It's a good idea to get up and walk about every 30 minutes. Even a trip to the bathroom will be good enough.
A nice long walk during your lunch break will promote healthy blood flow, ensuring that all the important nutrients make it to your spine.
There are even stretches you can do right from your chair.
Remember to Move!
While the unfortunate reality is that we are stuck in an office chair for roughly eight hours every day, there are steps we can take to make the most of it.
We need to upgrade our chair or get rid of it all together.
Always remember that posture is important and do all you can to never slouch.
Get up! Sitting for hours on end is never good for you.
Get up and get a drink, or take a trip to the bathroom.
Just remember to move.
If you'd like to learn more about keeping your back in tip-top shape, you can check out some of the articles below: