Are you familiar with this scenario? After a long day in the office that you mainly spent sitting, you come home and all you want is to relax on the couch? You feel mentally and physically stressed out, exhausted. But why? Didn’t you spend the day only sitting? Shouldn’t that have been easy and relaxing?
A month has gone by. At work, you oftentimes rub your neck or stand up to stretch. At night, you can’t find a comfortable position on the couch or in bed because no matter how you lay down, you feel pain somewhere after a minute. Welcome to the world of sitting-induced chronic back pain!
In our previous article, we talked about how an adjustable desk will help you and your body to stay healthy in many different ways. In this blogpost we will show you how back pain and ergonomics are related and what you can do to prevent health issues from sitting and static office work!
Why do I experience back pain?
Pain starts when our nerves are strained. Since the spine protects protects your spinal cord – which is basically the center of your nervous system – there is a countless amount of nerves right in your back. That is the reason why the back is particularly affected with pain. When your muscles are tense, the muscle puts pressure on a nerve, in a disc prolapse, the liquid inside the disc puts pressure on a nerve, and so forth.
When we talk about spinal discs in particular, movement and exercise are the gold standard for preventing pain, because spinal discs rely on constant burden and relief in order to be properly sustained by your body. Your lumbar spine and neck area are the two most affected areas. Why? These two areas experience the highest pressure when you sit for a long period of time.
Muscle tension can also bring in physical discomfort. Tension happens as a result of long or “wrong” exposure to sitting, the muscle cramps and then, again, puts pressure on the nerves. It’s the back again that is mostly affected by the risks of sitting.
Disc prolapses and Ergonomics
The main reason for sick days in Germany are pain and discomfort in their bodies – among them very prevalently, back pain. Early pension is also often due to back pain. From an economic standpoint, back pain costs us billions of euros every year. Still, many countries have not yet realized that ergonomics could be the answer to this economic damage and to a healthier society.
Apart from ergonomic products, our society is still becoming more and more sedentary and is moving and exercising less. This also impacts back health. The answer to the problem is an improvement from more integrated ergonomics in every day office worklife.
Ergonomics in the workplace against back problems
The goal of ergonomics is to bring harmony into the relationship between (wo)man and their work environment. Especially in times like these, in which people work more in static and sitting positions, ergonomics bring about balance and relieve to our bodies, and even prevent chronic issues. Our spine is affected the most when it comes to the dangers of sedentary work.
Characteristics of an ergonomic workplace
What does an ergonomic office even look like? In our recent blogpost about sitting and standing at work we intensely elaborated on this topic and its benefits. It is important to mention that there is no “one true standardized” ergonomic workplace. Adjustability comes in all shapes and sizes and is the key to a healthy work environment, especially for products that have directly to do with our body. In a nutshell, the characteristics of an ergonomic workplace can be summarized as follows (ordered by priority):
- Sit-Stand-Desk, also called adjustable desk
- Ergonomic office chair
- Good air quality and temperature
- Optimal lighting
- Comfortable shoes (if possible)
- foot rests (optional, cannot replace an adjustable desk)
- neck rests for tall persons (optional)
Benefits of an adjustable desk for back and spinal discs
Why is a sit-stand-desk, according to so many different sources, the core and centerpiece of an ergonomic office? Ergonomic furniture, on the one hand, allows for movement by the desks’ adjustability, on the other hand, they enable better postures.
An adjustable office desk, therefore, is the best solution to allow for the spinal discs to be properly nourished by the body (for which the discs need constant pressure and then relief) which happens through the frequent movement when standing up and sitting down.
Of course, disc prolapses can also happen due to other factors, like ageing and genetics. Adjustable desks cannot “heal” a disc prolapse. However, those who want to protect themselves in the best way against disc prolapses and other back issues, will invest in an adjustable desk and office ergonomics.
Benefits of ergonomic office chairs for back and spinal discs
Even if you do not work standing all day (which would also be exhausting) and like to sit down frequently, it is essential to sit in a good posture. The right posture ensures that our back is protected and your spine supported. We do recommend, however, that standing up frequently is also essential for a healthy back.
If the spine is “formed” correctly by a chair and the posture well supported, your spinal discs will not be overly strained. The wear-out-effect will be small. Arms, shoulders and neck also profit from an ergonomic office chair, as well as your chest and neck part of the spine.
Lastly, a good ergonomic office chair also protects your lumbar spine. A highly adjustable chair is therefore a great investment in your back health and is necessary to complement a sit-stand-desk in a ergonomic office.
Do ergonomics ease existing back pain?
So far we have discussed what you can do to prevent back pain. But what do you do if you already suffer from chronic pain? Can ergonomics in the office help ease the pain?
This is for sure: ergonomic office furniture cannot heal any injuries and cannot heal you from pain. It is true that ergonomics mostly target the prevention of issues and the improvement of health. But that does not mean that switching to an ergonomic office environment will not help you if you suffer from injuries or chronic pain issues. In fact, it might help you rehabilitate afterwards and improve.
Back to work after a disc prolapse – what now?
An injured spine, just like a healthy spine, needs to be kept in a healthy posture in order to get back to function again. This can be ensured by using adjustable furniture. Exercise and movement is particularly important after a disc prolapse. You should of course exercise in accordance with your doctor or physio therapist. You might be able to add some additional movement into your everyday work life with an adjustable desk. On top you could add a stool that supports you while standing without fully sitting down. By doing so, you relieve your spine even more.
Be careful to switch positions at least every hour. Do not lift heavy objects either. Bending over or kneeling can also be dangerous in the beginning of your post-disc prolapse journey. Always consult your doctor about health questions!
Lastly, in order to fully get rid of the pain, consider medical massages, chiropractor visits and physio therapy – all in accordance with your doctor.
What else can I do to prevent and against back pain and disc prolapses?
Stretch, stretch, stretch!
One of the easiest, yet most effective ways to get rid of and prevent back pain is stretching. It also often comes intuitively when we stand up after work and feel the urge to stretch – our body is speaking to us here!
Targeted stretching exercises for neck, back, shoulders, etc. are available en masse on the internet. We recommend video instructions so you do not make any wrong movements and risk injury. Stretching and fitness courses in your area might also be an option if you are sociable and need balance to your static work day.
Exercise and moving in general are the most effective means to prevent any kind of pain and health issue. If you are physically capable of doing exercise, do not skip it! Not everyone has to be an athlete, but it is worth considering how much as little as exercising once per week can help you stay fit and pain-free. An adjustable desk is the perfect way to get just a tiny bit of exercise in without even having to pay attention.
Of all the factors that influence back health, exercise is – doubtlessly – the most important one. You can always start to exercise and get healthier, no matter your age or occupation.
Get a good mattress
We often forget just how important the way we sleep really is. Just think about how many years of your life you spend sleeping! A good mattress also is essential for good back health. It is the worst thing to wake up from a good night’s sleep with a tense neck and back. Depending on your weight and preference, choose the right hardness grade and the right pillow to support your neck.
This is only one reason why Yaasa Founder Johannes Sauer founded Yaasa Studios in California. Yaasa Studios focuses on adjustbality in sleeping systems – just like the European team in the work place.
Eat a balanced and mostly healthy diet
A healthy and balanced diet is a positive choice in many regards – not only your back. When it comes to your spine, a good diet will mostly influence your weight, which plays a major role in the condition of your spine. Being overweight can quickly result in more pain, because your spine just has to carry more weight at all times, as well as your joints. Consider exercising a bit or incorporating movement with an adjustable desk. A healthy diet will also make you feel better overall.
Meditate and reflect
Meditating and reflecting is the key to contentness. It not only helps with spine and back issues, but in most areas of life. Our mental health, at the end of the day, is at the center of how great we feel. Even the best of healthy bodies needs an active mindset to evolve and use its potential. Mediation, reflection or even prayer – whatever you identify with most – are necessary to feel good through and through.