Does Working At A Desk Cause Back Problems?

According to the experts at Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, nearly 65 million Americans report at least one episode of back pain and 8% of adults report experiencing chronic back pain. And back pain affects more than just your overall health, it also has a significant impact on the economy, with costs related to back pain reaching over $12 billion every year.

Part of these economic costs are due to back pain being a major cause for lost work. 264 million work days are lost each year due to back pain related issues. And, given that experts predict that 80% of Americans will experience back pain in their lifetime, this situation is not likely to improve anytime soon (via Hartford Healthcare).

Sitting at a desk for prolonged periods is major reason why many people suffer from back pain. This is because a people tend to combine inactivity, consistent bad posture and lack of good back support, which make for a perfect recipe of factors (via Mayo Clinic).

However, the good news is that working a desk job doesn't mean you have to suffer. There are multiple ways you can modify how you work that will provide you with a healthier outcome.

How to prevent desk-related back problems

One measure you can take to address back pain is being mindful of how you are sitting in your desk chair and making sure your feet have support. "You want to avoid having your feet dangling off your chair," Stephen Aguilar, an occupational therapist and certified ergonomic assessment specialist at UCLA Rehabilitation Services, tells Fast Company. If your feet don't reach the ground, Aguilar suggests placing a foot stool under your desk.

Also, if you feel stiffness or any twinges, don't force yourself to push through. Stop and take some time to stretch. The experts at Healthline suggest a few simple exercises that you can even do while at your desk. These include a series of neck rolls, shoulder shrugs and butterfly wings. For butterfly wings, sit up straight, place your fingertips on your shoulders and pull your elbows towards each other as you exhale and back to the original position as you inhale.

Perhaps the most important thing you should do for yourself to prevent back pain is to regularly get up from your desk. "The issue that we're really up against is that we're not made to sit — certainly not for extended periods of time," Michael Fredericson, sports medicine physiatrist at Stanford Health Care tells Fast Company. And, what can make things worse is how you sit. "You tend to hunch forward, and your neck protrudes, and there's eye strain. It's stress that goes through your whole body," Dr. Fredericson notes. Aguilar concurs. "In a perfect world, get up from your desk every 20 to 30 minutes," he says. "Your body has to move."