Back Care Awareness Week: all you need to know about workplace back problems

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Back Care Awareness Week is an annual, week-long event starting on the 3rd of October. The concept aims to reduce unnecessary back injury through education. It helps employers learn how to support the wellbeing of their workers and promotes healthy habits to reduce the risk of back pain.

If you want to better protect your team’s back health, we’ve got plenty of information to get you started. Let’s explore some common back problems, how you can work smarter to reduce back issues, and some simple ways to treat back pain.

Common back problems

Back problems can affect anyone – particularly if you sit at a desk for prolonged amounts of time. Have you or your employees ever experienced any of the following issues? 

  • Neck tension
  • Soreness in back muscles from poor posture or slouching
  • Back pain from sitting in awkward positions

Poor posture and too much time looking at a screen can also lead to headaches. At the same time, a lack of physical activity from a desk job can cause muscle atrophy and weight gain.

Back problems can arise from a combination of these things, so it’s common for desk workers to feel bouts of general discomfort and soreness in their neck, shoulders, and back.

Setting up your workstation

If you’re experiencing minor back pain and strain when you’re working, look at your workstation’s set-up. There are some common culprits that are known for causing back and neck aches for desk-based workers:

  • Do you have a monitor that allows you to keep a good posture, or are you hunched over your laptop? Hours of sitting with poor posture can build up to pain and soreness. Position your monitor at eye level so your gaze naturally falls on the screen without needing to bend your head down.

  • Do you have a comfortable chair that facilitates regular movement and good posture? It can make more of a difference than you might think. Make sure you choose one that is ergonomic and adjustable.

  • Adjust your monitor brightness and size. If you have a dark screen and small font, you’re more likely to slouch towards your screen.

Keep an eye on your posture

As mentioned, practising good posture is crucial. This means keeping your head and neck aligned directly above your shoulders, ensuring your back is against the chair’s backrest, aligning your shoulders square with the computer screen, placing your feet flat on the ground, and keeping your upper arms parallel to your spine.

Stay active at work

It’s important to keep active throughout the day and take regular breaks away from your desk. Whether you go from a walk around the block every few hours or take your coffee breaks as an opportunity to do some stretching, every little helps when your work life is mostly sedentary. Try to switch up your sitting position or take a screen break at least every 30 minutes.

You might also want to consider choosing an active way of travelling to work if you commute to an office. If you usually drive, try walking, cycling, or walking to a bus stop or train station. Once you’re at work, make an effort to take the stairs instead of the lift or elevator. And if you work from home, aim to set some time aside for a walk, run, or yoga session before you start work. This will give you the same exercise benefits as you’d get from a commute.

Dealing with bouts of back pain

If having a well-set-up workstation and staying active isn’t resolving your back strain, you might want to try a few tricks that can speed up your recovery, such as:

  • Completing exercises and stretches specifically for back pain
  • Using a heat pack to reduce spasms and stiffness in your back and neck
  • Using an ice pack to reduce swelling or pain in your back and neck
  • Completing stretches to relieve neck tension
  • If you’re feeling tense at your desk, try exercises like shoulder shrugs, lateral neck rotations, seated calf raises, and resisted arm curls.

If you or your team members are still dealing with discomfort at work, try to find some ways to improve the situation. A good place to start is to carry out a DSE assessment to identify any desk set-up issues. From there, you can ensure all workers have the correct seating, desk height, and display screen equipment configuration. 

Improve your team’s back health with a DSE assessment

Back Care Awareness Week may draw attention to back issues, but it’s important to take your back health into consideration every day. If you’ve noticed any discomfort – no matter how minor – it’s vital to look into it sooner rather than later. Ignoring the problem may increase your risk of developing more severe health problems, such as osteoarthritis and sciatica). By following these tips and staying aware of your posture during work, you’ll be able to improve your back health and reduce your risk of further injury.

At Workhappy, we believe that all employees should be comfortable and free from back pain while working. Excellent back care starts with a good workstation set-up – after all, prevention is better than cure.

So, to ensure you and your employees have a comfortable workstation, organise a DSE assessment, whether that is an in-person assessment or a virtual assessment for your employees. Please feel free to get in touch with the Workhappy team if you have any questions about our DSE assessment options and to arrange a quick call so we can help you find the best solution for your needs.