Desks and Back Pain

Many people with back pain spend a lot of time in doctor's offices, getting X-Rays, MRIs and blood tests to try to figure out why they are experiencing so much discomfort. Surely there is some reason why I am in pain, right? There must be some type of exercise I could do or medication I could take to make this comfort go away, right? I truth, disease, disc problems, and dietary insufficiencies may be the reason why people have problems with their backs, but it is more likely that muscle weaknesses and the environment that you live and work are also contributing factors in your back problems. Many people never really consider their desk or work from home jobs to be occupational hazards. But it is a fact that the amount of time that you spend in your chair and the way you sit in your chair (posture) may be causing the aches in discomfort in your back. Here we will attempt to educate you on the association between poorly designed desks and back pain, and we will also suggest to you the type of desks you may want to but to minimize load on your back as you work at your desk. Before we do so, we will introduce to you the concept of workplace ergonomics.

Workplace ergonomics is the study of how the work environment that you operate affects the joints, muscles, and soft tissues of your body. It is likely that all of you have heard the horror stories of someone at work performing some type of heavy maneuver and suddenly feeling something "pop" or go out in their back. Many of these people suffered some type of muscle or soft tissue injury in their back while applying heavier loads to their spine than the structures of the spine were designed to endure. You may have heard these horror stories with the following comments such as their backs were never the same again. Or you may have even experienced one of these types of events yourself.



While not all workplace accidents that result in injury are unavoidable, they are often the result of either movements done while people demonstrated improper body mechanics or situations where the work environment was condusive to injury. Cases where one single event caused an injury do occur in the workplace, though it is just as common that a person may stress the joints and ligaments of their body doing repetitive movements using poor body mechanics.

People are more likely to become injured in office environments when they perform repetitive tasks in poor ergonomic work environments. In general, here are some things that you need to know. As you work in your desk chair, at your desk, and in front of the computer, your back should be straight, your lumbar spine should be well supported, and the long axes of your body should be at 90 degree angles to one another. For example, your torso should be perpendicular to your thighs and your thighs should be perpendicular to your lower legs as you sit in your desk chair. Your upper arm should be nearly perpendicular to your forearm as you type at your desk. Your head should not be bent forwards or backwards as your work at your desk, nor should your body be leaning forward as you are writing at your desk.

Here are some guidelines for you to follow as you set up or modify your workstation, including how your office chair and office desk should be designed.

Top 6 guidelines for Office Chair Setup: Here, we will give you 6 guidelines of how you should sit at your desk and how to adjust the chair that you will be spending thousands of sitting in. You don't have an office chair and desk that allows you the ability to make these types of adjustments, then you should consider buying one. The health and maintenance of your back may depend on it.
  1. Elbow measure: You should be able to sit comfortably at your desk in such a manner that you will be able to work with your upper arms parallel to your spine. Your elbows should be close to a 90 degree angle, and the underside of your elbows should be resting comfortable on the armrests. Your hands and wrists should be comfortably in contact with your work surface. Hopefully, you will be able to adjust the work surface, arm rest, and seat height to get all of the anatomy in the right positions.
  2. Thigh measure: The seat height should be adjusted so that your thighs are perpendicular to the long axis of your torso.
  3. Lower back support: You should be pushed all the way back in your chair so that your entire back is in contact with the back of the chair. The back of the chair should have a shape that resembles the shape of your lower back and chest area.
  4. Calf measure: There should be about a fist's width of space between the back of your knee and calf and the end of the seat of the desk chair.
  5. Resting eye level: The middle of your computer screen should be at the same level as your eyes.
  6. Armrest: Adjust the height of the armrests of the chair so that it just slightly lifts your arms at the shoulders.