Hours of sitting in front of screen in the office can lead to back tension and ultimately pain, but obeying a few rules and doing simple exercises can help avoid these risks.
"Particularly important is to switch between phases of sitting on the one hand and phases of standing up and moving on the other," according to Georg Stingel, head of a German association promoting healthy backs.
No-one should spend more than half their time in the office sitting down. "Sitting puts a load on the discs and the back muscles do not receive enough blood," Stingel explains.
Office workers should thus spend a quarter of their time standing. Desks that can be adjusted in height to allow office workers to continue working as normal. "And for the rest, people should be moving," Stingel said, adding that after just one hour of sitting it is time to get up and move.
Exercise makes joints supple
Anyone who has been sitting for too long and has started to feel back pain should be able to alleviate it to some extent with stretching and relaxation exercises, he says.
"A good exercise while sitting for example is to stretch the left and right arm upwards towards the ceiling alternately. You should not be leaning against the back of your chair while doing this," Stingel says.
This exercises the shoulder blades and back. For the back muscles, he recommends standing up and bending the torso backwards and forwards.
"This helps to make the joints supple, "Stingel says, although he acknowledges it is a bit odd to suddenly start swaying to and fro in front of colleagues. ”Many people would be embarrassed," he says.
Use the stairs to the office
A less obtrusive exercise is to link the fingers behind the head and then to push forward with minimal force for around 10 seconds while simultaneously bending the head back to the nape of the neck. "Then place the chin on the breast for 10 seconds. That exercises the neck and upper back muscles," Stingel says.
The trip to the office can also be used to do something for your back. "Don't take the lift, use the stairs," is Stingel's advice. The back always profits from movement.
How you sit can also affect your back. "Your chair should certainly have adjustable height," Stingel says. In addition, an ergonomically designed chair with an adjustable backrest angle is an advantage.
"The best is armrests that be adjusted with respect to height and width," he says. Your sitting position should be as upright as possible, slightly supported at the back.
"You often adopt unusual posture when concentrating hard, hunching the shoulders or bending forward towards the screen. That's no problem for a couple of minutes but over the longer term it's a bad way to sit," Stingel concludes.
(Sapa, March 2012)
Back Pain: Try these exercises