Desk jockeys unite: How to relieve back pain at work

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First of all, get a proper desk chair. The Herman Miller Aeron chair is considered by many to be the “Cadillac” of ergonomic desk chairs, but there are plenty of other brands such as Steelcase on the market, too. The seat should have an adjustable height and angle. The cushions should be firm.  Unfortunately, good desk chairs don’t come cheap. If your boss resists paying for it, plead your case that a pain-free work station will increase productivity and reduce sick days. If that still doesn’t work, you may need to pay for your own ergonomic chair and take it with you when you leave.

Try installing stretch reminder software such as MacBreakz or Stretchware. These programs beep and remind you when to take a break, and provide a variety of illustrated, timed stretches to relieve pain and keep your muscles from tensing up after long periods of sitting at your desk.  

If you have any privacy at work (especially if you work from home) drop to the floor throughout the day. Spread out a rubber mat and stretch or do a few yoga poses, which will relieve back and neck pain. Get an inflatable exercise or fitness ball to lie across, preferably one that’s at least 65 cm. Many fitness balls come with a pump for inflating and a poster illustrating recommended stretches. Hang this poster in your office and refer to it frequently.  If you can’t stretch out on the floor, at least bend at the waist from time to time and let your arms drop to the floor.  

Lastly, make sure your posture isn’t the culprit.  You should be facing straight ahead; try to keep your ears in line with your shoulders. Eyes should be about level with the top of your computer monitor. The entire sole of both feet should rest comfortably on the floor or a foot rest.

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