workplace back strain

Tips to help you prevent developing back pain at work, including how to sit correctly, safe lifting advice, and why you should take regular breaks

Sitting at your workstation

Sitting for long periods in front of a computer is storing up trouble. No matter how good your positioning, it’s important to get up every so often. Health experts recommend breaking up sedentary time every 30 minutes for at least one to two minutes.

Workstation factors that can affect your back include: seating posture, computer screen position, chair height, keyboard position, mouse position and desk equipment layout. If you work in an office and use a computer, get tips on how to sit correctly. If you’re not sure about your seating position and workstation, ask your manager to arrange an assessment for you. 

When you’re sitting, your thighs should be at right angles to your body or sloping slightly down.  If your chair is properly adjusted, your feet should be firmly on the floor, but use a footrest if it’s more comfortable. The basic rule is to plant your feet on the floor and support your back.

Lifting stuff safely

One of the biggest causes of back injury, especially at work, is lifting or handling objects incorrectly. Learning and following the correct method for lifting and handling objects can help prevent back pain.

Key points for lifting safely:

  • plan your lift
  • start in a stable position
  • keep the load close to your waist
  • keep your back as straight as possible
  • avoid twisting your back or leaning sideways
  • avoid lifting heavy loads 
  • push heavy objects, don’t pull them
  • distribute the weight evenly

Take regular breaks

Break up long periods of sitting. Frequent short breaks are better for your back than a few long ones.  It gives the muscles a chance to relax while others take the strain. This can prevent your back becoming stiff and tense.  Most jobs provide opportunities to take a break from the screen, such as getting a drink, going for some fresh air, filing or photocopying.

Treating back pain

In general, the best treatment is to stay active and, if necessary, use painkillers. You may feel like going to bed, but this won’t help and could make it worse. The longer you’re immobile, the weaker your back muscles will become, and the more they will hurt in the long term. Your state of mind can also play an important role. Research has shown people who remain positive tend to recover quicker than those who get depressed.