Keep it straight
Sitting for long hours in an incorrect posture can cause back and neck pain
Dr Gerd Mueller

In today’s hectic times, many hours are spent at offices. On an average, a person sits more than eight hours a day at work. Many of us do not take required number of frequent eye or leg breaks and eventually develop many body ailments, most common of which are back and neck pain. Lack of proper knowledge and guidance coupled with a careless attitude towards health are the main culprits.

Take short breaks to counter the negative effects of sitting at desk for long hours at your office
Take short breaks to counter the negative effects of sitting at desk for long hours at your office

Negative effects of sitting for long hours

Not only during office hours but even at home, we tend to spend the rest of our day sitting or lying down; watching TV, eating, surfing the net, commuting/driving (in sit-position and so on. This sitting habit, especially if the posture is incorrect all the time, contributes to a number of medical conditions like back pain, neck pain headache and other conditions. When we work on a computer, we underuse many of our muscles, while other muscles get tense and shorten. Often we develop a so-called muscular imbalance, with a shortening of the breast muscles and a weakness of the upper back and shoulder blade muscles.

Things to do

If you are sitting at a desk for the large portion of the workday and later at home for other activities, it is essential to give your body a break by standing up and taking a short walk around the room. When you do, you will work different muscles and get your blood moving up.

Recharge the body through frequent breaks

Frequent breaks are important to maintain good health. Despite having ergonomically-correct furniture and other things, the body still need these breaks. Instead of asking a helper to fetch a file or something, go yourself. If you can talk to someone while standing, do it. Just a few minutes of frequent strolling during office hours are enough to keep you healthy and recharged. So be active.

Proper sitting styles

When you are sitting, make sure you move around a lot and change positions, it is called ‘dynamic sitting’. This way you start to use different muscles.

Tips to maintain correct sitting posture

Choose a stable working place where the computer is placed and get a computer which can be adjusted according to your needs.

When you are seating comfortably then ensure that the distance between you and your computer is an arm’s length. Make sure that the monitor should be at the level of your eyes so that you don’t have to look up or down which will really stress your eyes as well as neck.

Keyboard and mouse are placed at the same height as your elbow.

However, the workplace corrections are often overrated regarding their effect on the symptoms. Many recent studies show that a much more effective way in dealing with the symptoms lies in a proper exercise, both with short active breaks and stretches at the workplace and a good workout in your leisure time.

The most effective way of dealing with back pain is back-strengthening exercises
The most effective way of dealing with back pain is back-strengthening exercises

Exercise as counter-weight against sitting

A workout is essential to counter the negative effects of sitting at desk for long hours at your office. The exercise regime should be different for different people. Not only does it differ according to the age and gender, but also the weight and the height of a person. Exercising is the best way to lose body fat, as it increases your metabolism. Physical stamina is increased to a great extent, which helps keep you fresh throughout your hectic schedule for the whole day. A good workout can also act as a stress-buster. Exercising is one of the best ways to deal with the pain and stiffness in your neck or back.

Back & neck exercise must for office-goers

Neck stretching exercises can loosen the stiffness of the muscle and expand the range of motion and in neck. Neck and upper back strengthening exercises can help a person in maintaining proper neck position which may stop recurrent pain caused by long sitting hours.

There are a number of exercises to strengthen back muscles but it is advisable to consult a physiotherapist/doctor before starting any exercise, especially when symptoms had been there for a long time.

— The writer is Chairman and MD, AktivOrtho, Orthopaedic Rehabilitation and Prevention centre, New Delhi