Are you looking after your back at work?

Many of us often spend the majority of our time sitting whilst at work.  The effect of this on ones back, neck, posture and surrounding soft tissues can vary from slight aches and pains to severe pain.  In some cases, individuals may need time off work until these symptoms settle.  Generally speaking, most corporate work places offer some form of ergonomic assessment, ranging from in-house computer assessments through to others who have a fully working ergonomics lab and qualified assessors.  Whilst the ergonomic set up and how you interact with the working environment can play a large role in contributing to or maintaining ones various aches and pains, there is also a fair degree of responsibility on the individual to be mindful of their own posture.

Good And Bad Seated Posture

Are You Looking After Your Back At Work?


The above image is an example that I have found on the internet that demonstrates varying good and bad seated postures.  The majority of us who work at a computer and sit at a desk often develop the posture demonstrated on the left side of the image.  Slouching in the chair, feet not sitting firmly on the ground, rounding of the lower back, forward protrusion of the head, rounding of the shoulders all can lead to strain developing in the neck, shoulders, middle and lower back.

People often ask, how should I sit when working at the computer.  Many times people adopt the posture on the far right of the above image.  They over correct themselves when sitting.  For anyone who has tried this, it is very tiring.  Most people can only hold this posture for a very short time before collapsing back into their slouched posture.  The best way to sit is demonstrated is the middle image.  I would probably say it is a relaxed version (10 – 20% less effort) than that of the right image.  It is important to try and sit with your feet firmly on the ground, thighs parallel to the ground or hips slightly higher than the knees and spine neutral.  Now, whilst this a good posture to try to aim for, even holding this posture for long periods without a break can lead to muscle tension.  So the best advice I can give is, MOVE FREQUENTLY and CHANGE YOUR POSTURE REGULARLY!

Sitting At Your Desk

Images Are You Looking After Your Back At Work?


The above image is another that I have found on the internet.  It gives a basic description of how you should go about setting up your workstation.  What this image doesn’t explain is how to set it up if you are especially short or tall.  In both circumstances, if you are shorter than 5’2 and taller than 6’1, a foostool, larger or smaller chair and adjustable desk might be required.  If this sounds like you and you are having issues with your workstation environment, an individual assessment might be required.  For laptop and dual screen workers, you may require further adjustments to improve your current setup.

Standing At Your Desk

Images 1 Are You Looking After Your Back At Work?


The above image is another that I have sourced from the internet.  This is a good example of how one could set up a standing work environment.  More and more work places are now offering this as an option.  Great for those individuals who suffer from chronic back or neck pain.  Again, this is a standardized image that is not suitable for everyone.  For those of you who are thinking that a standing workstation set up might be worth trying, ensure that you have a current workstation ergonomic check up first to determine the suitability.  This type of workstation set up is generally more expensive than the standard desk and chair option.

Simple Tips To Reduce Aches & Pains

  • Break from the same static sitting posture every 30 minutes.  This can be as simple as standing up and sitting down again.
  • Change up your visual focus every 15-20 minutes to avoid eye strain.  Focusing on the same object (monitor) at the same distance can lead to eye strain.  By varying your focus on different objects at different distances frequently, you can reduce the risk of injury.
  • Stay hydrated at work.  Keep a 500ml bottle of water and drink this throughout the work day.  Many offices can be humid and hot and you may be dehydrating yourself.
  • Carry out some simple stretches when and where possible i.e. back twists, shoulder rolls, head turns and nodding, chest stretches.
  • Compare your current workstation set up to that sitting posture image above and see if things are similar
  • Vary your sitting posture frequently
  • Learn to use the mouse on the left side of your body as well as right
  • Avoid holding the telephone between your ear and head whilst typing at the same time
  • If performing data entry job tasks, use a document holder to avoid neck strain
  • When turning to talk to people near you, use the swivel on the chair rather than twisting through the back.

If you are currently looking to improve your current workstation set up, then contact Osteopath Heath Williams of Principle Four Osteopathy and Corporate Work Health Australia.  For a detailed description of our services, please click here.

Principle Four Osteopathy and Corporate Work Health Australia (Victoria Branch) is located in the heart of the Melbourne City CBD 3000 at 29 Somerset Place, Melbourne City CBD 3000.  It is just behind Camera House on the corner of Little Bourke & Elizabeth St.  The clinic is open Monday – Fridays and appointments can be made by calling 03 9670 9290 or booking online at

Common Conditions Treated & Managed include back pain, neck pain, shoulder injuries, rotator cuff strains/tears, subacromial impingement, frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis), Tendinitis, Tennis & Golfers Elbow, De Quervains Tenosynovitis, Pre & Post Natal, Hip Injuries, Knee Injuries, Patellar Tendinitis, Post Operative Corrective Exercise & Strengthening, Plantarfasciitis, Achilles Tendinitis, Muscle Strains.

Treatment & Management Include: Manipulation, soft tissue massage, stretching, foam rolling, dry needling, exercise prescription, FAKTR, mobilisation, muscle energy techniques, taping, ergonomic assessments, manual handling training.