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My back hurts when I sit at my desk; what can I do?

In the modern era, most people have a desk at work. Most people spend a large percentage of their day at their desk. If your desk set-up puts a lot of strain on the neck and low back, it can compound subluxation problems.

When we sit, we want to keep the spine aligned just like it is when we stand with good posture.

So, what is good posture? Well, stand up. Put all ten toes on the ground and all ten toes pointed straight forward. Don’t lock your knees. Pull your belly-button in toward your spine and your sacrum down toward the ground. Bring the shoulders directly over the hips and the ears back over your shoulders.

That is good, proper posture.

When we sit, we want the spine to remain in that alignment.

Most office chairs are designed for people who are 5’10”. If you are shorter than 5’10”, your knees will be below your hips. Ideally, we want the knees to be at the same level as your hips, so that your femur is parallel to the ground.

If your knees are below your hips, put something under your feet to bring your knees up. Some people use a small stool, but it doesn’t have to be anything expensive; I use a shoe box, personally. Some people have found that old textbooks make good foot rests (if the bookstore is only going to give you $.20 back for your freshman biology book, hold onto that bad boy and put it to use).

If you are taller than 5’10”, raise your seat so that your knees are also aligned with your hips.

Next, we want to bring the computer monitor in front of your eyes so that you don’t spend extended time looking up or down at the screen. This is how I have chosen to use my old textbooks - as a monitor stand. Again, it doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective, although there are products out there to purchase if you want.

Next, we need to talk about the mouse. If you have to use the mouse a lot, we want to find a way to bring the mouse under your hand without extending the shoulder and elbow for extended periods of time. If you only use the mouse sparingly, this is a less pressing issue.

Finally, get up and move around every 20-30 minutes. Set a timer on your phone and keep hitting “repeat” until this becomes a habit. Walk to the water cooler. Walk to the copy machine. Do a few squats. Bend over and reach toward your toes. Whatever movement you can do to get blood circulation in the lower half of your body will help.

Sometimes people ask about standing desks. If you have the funds available to invest in a good desk, I would recommend a desk that allows you to alternate between sitting and standing. There are some desks on the market that can be used in positions that allow for both, and I think that is the best option. If money is tight, try to make small changes to your current set-up.

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