The Daily Spine
Tips for Living Well With Back Pain
The body is not designed to be static for long periods of time. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends a ten-minute rest after two hours if your keying work is of moderate intensity, and a 15-minute rest after one hour if it is intense. You can also take work breaks without straying (very far) from your desk.
Work breaks at or near your desk can be small, so no need to worry about getting in trouble with the boss. Here are a few ideas for work breaks and computer breaks that may help you avoid neck or back pain:
Work Break Idea 1: Change your position every 10-15 minutes.
Fidgeting isn’t as bad a habit as you may have been taught. Just use fidgeting consciously. In other words, when your work break consists of fidgeting, try to get your whole body involved in the action. Here are some things to try:
- Adjust where you are in relation to your work. Experts tell us we should squarely face the computer and desk. So take a moment to reset your desk posture. It may involve untwisting your spine or working the controls on your chair so that your hips, knees and elbows angles are 90 degrees (right angles).
- Stretch your arms up toward the ceiling to counteract the compression that comes from sitting.
- Press up using your hands on the arm rests of your chair (and support yourself on your feet, as well). Let your trunk “dangle” to give a little traction to your low back.
- Try posture exercises.
- If you've never injured your back, you might consider using an exercise ball chair on a limited basis. They are not for everyone, though.
Work Break Idea 2: Get Away From Your Desk
Walk around whenever it fits with your job responsibilities. Sometimes we have the choice to move, but we don't take it. For protecting your back's health, (and burning a few extra calories), that attitude is a no-no. Get up and go to the drinking fountain regularly or designate part of your lunch hour as walking time. I know of one corporate executive who takes the stairs when she goes for quick visits to colleagues on nearby floors.
Work Break Idea 3: Breathe Deeply
Breathing exercises are great for posture. This is partially because the many of the muscles of posture are also breathing breathing muscles: The diaphragm, abdominals, and intercostals, for example. Breathing exercises may also refresh your mental outlook and give you an energy boost.
Here are a few breathing exercise instruction sets from other About.com Health Guides:
- Belly Breathing from Cathy Wong, Alternative Medicine Guide
- Alternate Nostril Breathing from Ann Pizer, Yoga Guide
- Expand Your Ribcage When You Breathe from Marguerite Ogle, Pilates Guide
Working Safely with Video Display Terminals. U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA 3092. 1997 (revised).