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Keeping your spine healthy in the Office
10 Oct

Keeping your spine healthy in the Office

Welcome to the Restoration Blog! In this first series we will be focusing on back pain, a common complaint which unfortunately most of us will suffer with at some stage of our lives. First up, in part 1, Keeping The Spine Healthy in the Office.

At the clinic we often find that people experiencing low back pain, whether it be a new onset or a recurring episode, are at a loss as to how and why it has happened. People will often say: I don’t understand, I was absolutely fine and woke up one morning with the pain, is it my mattress? Have I slept in a funny position? Have I pulled something whilst exercising the day before?

The spine and the pain we feel is complex and in Part 2 we will think more about the Structures of the Spine and Causes of Pain, but foremost let’s go back to basics on a practical level; where do many of us spend a considerable amount of our time? At the office. Work is essential in keeping us physically and mentally healthy but we must look after ourselves, particularly if we spend hours either sitting still or completing repetitive tasks. These activities can lead to poor posture which in turn can cause tight and weakened spinal muscles. Unfortunately, this could also mean that stressors on other structures have occurred; for example, stretched spinal ligaments, nerve and disc irritation, weak gluteal and core muscles, stiff and mal-aligned vertebrae. We must therefore attempt to unload the spine to counteract these negative effects, to reduce strain, fatigue, tension and to restore circulation, mobility and posture to the spinal column.

Here are some simple tips to a healthier and happier spine at the office:

  1. Keep moving! Aim to stand up from your desk every 30 minutes; get yourself a drink, go to the photocopier, check out the lovely view out of your office window if you are fortunate to have one, or just walk to the other end of the room in a pointless manner and back… your spine will thank you later.
  2. Take your breaks; this can be micro breaks for a couple of minutes every hour (see examples above or be creative and think of your own!), tea breaks, lunch breaks and rotating your tasks to combine sitting and standing activities if possible. No eating your lunch at the desk please unless you really have no other option.
  3. Look at the ergonomics of your work station and your posture. Most work places offer a work station assessment of some kind; make the most of this if they do. If not, ensure your lower back (lumbar spine) is supported ideally with a built in lumbar chair support, or a rolled up towel or pillow is better than nothing at all. Keep your hips slightly above your knees, feet firmly on the floor or on a foot rest, your monitor at arms’ length and at or slightly below eye level.
  4. Stretch the contracted lower back muscles. Here are three you can do at work to get you started:

Exercise #1 Hip and Spine Release:

Sit in an upright posture in your office chair (see point 3). Cross your left leg over your right knee. Lengthen your spine. Inhale and on the exhale, slowly bend forwards, bringing your chest and torso towards your folded legs. Allow your arms to drop down to the floor and hold this position for 5 deep breaths. Slowly curl the spine back up to an upright posture. Repeat 3 times on each side.

Exercise #2 Spinal Chair Twist

Sit slightly forward in your chair with an upright posture. Turn your head and trunk to the right. Cross your left arm over your body and rest this on the right arm rest or the side of your right leg. Place your right hand on the top of the back of your chair. Hold this stretch for up to 30 seconds, repeat 3 times on each side.

Exercise #3 Spinal Reach

Sit tall and upright. Clasp your hands and face the palms outwards. Reach above your head with clasped hands, stretching through the spine. Inhale and keeping your weight even through both hips, exhale as you reach up and over to the right. Hold up to 30 seconds, breathing normally. Return to centre and repeat 3 times on each side.

Often it is the small changes to our daily lives which make the most difference to our health and these office tips are easy to do, effective and will empower you to get back to your best. See you in part 2 for Structures of the Spine and Causes of Pain.

Total Restore. Your Manchester Physiotherapy Clinic. Getting you back to your best.