Our Spine Needs Care Too…
Indeed, ‘occupational health’ is crucial to enhance work productivity and performance. However, we pay less attention on how to keep our spine heathy while busy in doing our everyday office works. Sedentary lifestyle may lead to neck and back pain and other severe
health related conditions. As such, it requires our attention before it is too late to get noticed! Low back pain is common among sedentary office workers (be it academicians or administrative officers), which is a leading cause of work-related disability. Back pain can
develop from physical inactivity, which cause muscle imbalance.
Long hours of work at office requires employees to maintain same position for long period which pose a higher risk for back pain. Not only this, the faulty posture and poor designed workstation also cause back pain. Besides, work stress increases the risk of low back pain as it causes tension in the muscle. Other clinical factors included weakness of back and abdominal muscles, poor
lumbar stability, abnormal trunk stability and scoliosis. By looking at the severity of poor maintenance of work health, it is crucial for us to understand how to improve the spinal health while at office by taking some simple but necessary steps.
Ways To Improve Spinal Health at Office
- Implementation of workplace ergonomic
Workplace ergonomics can be referred as workplace design based on science where physical limitation of employees is taken into consideration. Poor workplace ergonomics design is likely to increase risk of occupational injury. A well-designed
workplace should promote good postural awareness when executing a task, and reduced tension in low back muscle. This design contributes having an effective workstation and increase productivity. While setting up a workstation, ensure that the monitor is at the eye level so that you need not to bend your neck excessively and to reduce the rotation movement that may cause muscle strain after long hours of work. Additionally, office chair with proper lumbar support helps to promote good posture and relieve pressure at lower back area. Pay attention to adjust the height of the chair so that arms even with the height of the desk. Sit with feet flat on floor or footrest with knees bent at 90 degrees and thigh rest horizontal. Avoid cross leg position while sitting, and ensure even weight bearing on both sides buttock, thighs and feet.
- Take short breaks, avoid prolonged sitting
Motion is lotion. No matter how upright or comfortable one is in an office chair, prolonged static posture increases risk of muscle imbalance which is a common contributor to back pain. Prolonged sitting also causes poor blood circulation which leads to swelling at legs and joints stiffness. To avoid keeping the back in the same position for a long period, simple activity such as getting up from the seat and some easy movement can be done at least once every hour such as going to the washroom, getting a drink from pantry or even do a few stretching exercises (just to change the body position). Do not forget to respect your body signals! If you feel tightness or soreness at your neck or back, then it is time to move around and change your position.
- Office stretches
- Neck stretch – Seat on a chair, face in front, tilt your head to move your ear toward shoulder (Figure 1). Feels the muscle stretch at the side of your neck. Hold the stretch for 15 seconds. Relax and return to starting position. Repeat 5 times on each side.
- Trunk rotation stretch– Seat with feet firmly on floor. Place left hand on right knee and twist upper body to the right, looking behind your shoulder. Feel the stretch at the side of your trunk (Figure 2). Hold the stretch for 15 seconds. Repeat 5 times on each side.
- Hamstrings stretch– Seated on chair, straighten one leg outward, reach your hand toward toes (Figure 3). Feel the stretch at the back of thigh. Hold for 15 seconds. Repeat 5 times on each side.
- Comfort work attire
Avoid tight clothing. For instance, tight-fitting jeans can put too much pressure on your muscles that cause restriction in movement and poor blood circulation. This further aggravated by long hour of inactivity which then leads to lower limb swelling
and choose a comfort and loose outfit. It should be noted that, leg swelling cause by retention of fluid in lower extremities due to tight jeans.
- Healthy diet
Follow a diet rich in Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus promote bone strength and prevent osteoporosis. Stay hydrated.
- Self-management tips for office back pain
Other than stretching exercises, thermotherapy helps to improve blood circulation and
muscle relaxation. Use ice pack to reduce pain and swelling or use hot pack to relieve
joint stiffness and muscle spasm.
The above mentioned simple healthy habits at workplace will help to alleviate back pain. Examine your work environment identify and address the risk factors of work-related back pain able to help to improve the productivity and joyous at workplace. Do not wait till it is
too late. Start to care for your occupational health from now.
About the authors:
Associate Professor Dr Farzana Quoquab is a research expert in consumer behaviour, green and sustainability marketing and services marketing. She holds a DBA from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM). For more information about her research and publication, visit
Goh Yee Ling is a physiotherapist at WELL Rehab Physiotherapy Centre, Seri Kembangan, Malaysia. She is aspired to disseminate the health-wellness knowledge among greater population.