Back problems in office workers

Working in an office and sitting at a computer may not seem as physically demanding as being a lumberjack, bricklayer or even a hairdresser, but it still presents its own set of potential physical problems that can result in a great deal of pain or discomfort.

The human body isn’t designed to sit still for long periods. No matter whether you’re sitting at a desk or standing behind a counter, after about 20 minutes, something’s going to start to hurt. That could be your feet, your knees, your back or your neck. Most people don’t really have the option of getting-up and moving around every few minutes- there are customers to deal with, jobs to finish. As a result, over time we get used to the discomfort associated with our jobs. Our bodies and muscles seem to adapt to constant physical stresses until, one day, they don’t any more.

That day is the day our back starts to ache, the muscles in our shoulders feel tense or we develop a sharp headache. Now, of course if you’re feeling like that, one highly effective solution could be to see a physiotherapist or a chiropractor. But what happens when, after you’re feeling better, you get back to work? Does the whole cycle have to start again?

Prevention is better than a cure.

There are ways to help prevent back and neck pain in office workers from becoming so severe or certainly to prolong the duration between therapeutic appointments. If we stay in one position for long periods, our muscles will tense up in an attempt to support our body in that position with the minimum of effort. Unfortunately, muscles aren’t supposed to be tense and this can be the root of a lot of spinal and muscular problems in deskbound professionals. So, let’s have a look at some of the ways we can reduce desk and computer-related strain.


Yes, we know it can be difficult to get up and move around while at work, especially if you’re glued to a phone but incorporating movement into your day is essential. Even if it only involves getting up for a minute or two every half-hour, it can really make a difference in stopping muscles from seizing up. A few shoulder or neck rolls can help you make the best of your short break.

Desk and Chair

A good chair is one of the best weapons in the fight against back pain. The back and lumbar support on a chair should be used to keep your posture as erect as possible whilst still remaining comfortable and supported. Although desks typically aren’t adjustable, height adjustment on chairs means that you can often achieve the ideal of having your desk surface at elbow height. If using a desktop computer, try position the screen in such a way that you’re looking straight ahead rather than down at it.


Pain in the shoulders and neck is one of the most common ailments for office workers. Luckily, there are stretches your can do at your desk that can provide some relief from pain should you feel its onset.

  • Neck extension- Keeping your shoulders and back still, simply look up and hold the stretch for 5 seconds. You should feel the stretch in the muscles at the front of your neck.
  • Neck flexion- With everything else remaining still, tilt your head down towards your chest and hold for 5 seconds. You’ll feel this stretch in the back of your neck.
  • Lateral neck flexion- Tilt your head to the side, ie. try make your ear touch your shoulder. If you do that in both directions, you’ll feel the muscles stretching in the side of your neck.
  • Neck rotation- This can be a hard one, especially if neck pain has already set-in. Keeping your body straight, turn your head as far to the right as is comfortable. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat to the left.

These stretches can be helpful and may be gently performed several times a day.

Active lifestyle

It always comes down to this, doesn’t it? Having an active, healthy lifestyle can, if overdone, cause problems in its own right (just ask sportspeople). On the other hand, it really can aid in keeping the body flexible and supple and promotes faster healing of muscles and tissues. If you’re chained to a desk all day, a walk, run or game of football in the evening is not only good for your heart and your head, but it’s one of the ways the muscular system can stay active. This means that not only should back and neck pain become rarer but also, when it does occur, it ought to heal quicker too.