14 May 2009 05:34 pm

Back Pain and Ergonomics

The Evolution of Man…



It is a widely accepted among medical experts that back pain is closely related to sitting. And let’s face it; we spend a lot of time during the day doing just that.

  • We sit in the car on the way to work
  • We sit most of the time while we’re at work
  • Then we sit in the car on the way home
  • And when we finally get home at the end of the day, all we want to do is sit and relax

In fact, about the only time we’re not sitting is when we’re moving from one seat to the next. And, because of this, it should come as no surprise that back pain is a pretty common work related disorder.

Now I’m not crazy enough to suggest that we all stop sitting, because we both know that just isn’t going to happen. But what we can do is take a few simple steps to minimize the impact by making our workplace more back friendly.

Here are some suggestions you might want to consider.

General Back Saving Tips

laptop cat

  1. Take frequent breaks
  2. Get up and walk around every 30-60 minutes
  3. Lean back in your chair when you can
  4. Change position often
  5. Stretch your back frequently throughout the day
  6. Do warm-up stretches before lifting anything
  7. heavy

  8. Did I mention take frequent breaks?

Take Time to Arrange Your Workspace

Notice how I managed to incorporate ergonomics into the design of my office…


If you’re lucky enough to have your own office, desk or other individual work area, you can probably set it up to minimize back strain and fatigue.

  1. Give yourself plenty of room
  2. Arrange everything within easy reach
  3. Make sure your desk is a proper height
  4. Try a document holder to get work up to eye level
  5. Plan to do some tasks standing
  6. Take frequent breaks from sitting
  7. Make sure you have plenty of light
  8. Try to avoid slouching

Get a Good Chair


When you’re setting up your workspace, keep in mind that a good chair is worth its weight in gold. If you have to sit for extended periods of time, invest in a chair that’s ergonomically designed for back support. Even if you can’t adopt any of the other suggestions on this page, a good chair is a must.

  1. Get a chair with good lumbar support
  2. Get a chair that can lean back
  3. Get a chair with arm rests
  4. Try occasionally switching to a kneeling chair
  5. Try occasionally sitting on an exercise ball (20 min max)
  6. Plan to do some tasks standing (repeated on purpose)

What if You Use a Laptop?

Junior appears to be setting up his MySpace.

laptop on floor

  • Place laptop at proper typing height
  • Try using a normal keyboard and mouse
  • Occasionally place laptop in your lap and lean back
  • Try a larger monitor (See monitors below)
  • Try placing the laptop on the floor (See illustration above.)
  • Speaking of Computer Keyboards

    portable PC

    If you spend a lot of time working at a computer, having the ability to move around can greatly reduce the negative effects sitting has on the back.

    1. Place keyboard at proper typing height
    2. Occasionally place keyboard in your lap and lean back
    3. Try a keyboard tray or adjustable shelf
    4. Try a portable computer (See illustration above)

    What About the Mouse?

    laptop puppy2

    Many of the keyboard tips also apply to use and placement of your mouse. (Showing disdain for your Microsoft applications is optional.)

    1. Place the mouse within easy reach
    2. Arrange the mouse so you can occasionally lean back
    3. Try a cordless trackball or mouse
    4. Try a movable mouse stand next to your chair

    Select the Right Computer Monitor


    1. Place monitor close enough that you don’t have to lean forward
    2. Get a monitor large enough that you can lean back
    3. Place monitor at a comfortable height
    4. Center the monitor in front of you
    5. Try a movable monitor arm

    Wrapping Things Up

    If you’re like most of us, you spend way too much of your day sitting at a desk or working with a computer. This does not mean that you have to sacrifice your health for the sake of your job.

    Putting together an ergonomic work environment is not that difficult (although it may require spending a little of your own money). Most employers and co-workers will be willing to go along with your little idiosyncrasies if you take the time to explain the reasons why you’ve suddenly gone insane.

    With a little planning and ingenuity you can survive the work-a-day world with your back intact. People may think you’re a bit odd, but then they probably always have.

    Besides, you may even find that you get more work done.


    p.s. One last tip for that daily commute:

    Consider alternative transportation that allows for multitasking…



    21 Feb 2009 04:15 pm

    Sciatica and Food: Is There a Secret Cure?


    What does sciatica have to do with food?

    Good question.

    Occasionally, someone will write to me and ask if there are any dietary changes or food supplements that would help them in their recovery process. Human nature being what it is, they are hoping that there is some easy way out of their predicament.

    So, are there any secret culinary shortcuts you can take that will rapidly cure sciatica?

    No, of course not.

    However, if you’re overweight, your doctor may recommend that you lose a few pounds. But beyond that, the only thing that you need to do is make sure you eat a well-balanced diet. Something you should do everyday, anyway.

    Sciatica is a Mechanical Problem

    Sciatica symptoms are caused by a pinched or irritated sciatic nerve. The symptoms will persist as long as the nerve continues to be irritated. The only real solution for this problem is to get whatever is pinching the nerve to back off so it can heal.

    The usual suspects are herniated discs, bone spurs, inflamed ligaments, or scar tissue from previous surgeries.

    Attempting to medicate the problem away… whether with drugs, or herbal remedies, or whatever… is a fool’s paradise at best. The exception to this would be the case of anti-inflammatory products such as NSAIDS, or steroid injections and even those are temporary solutions. They should never be mistaken for a cure.

    Physical Therapy is Still Your Best Option

    So while there are certain food items and herbs that have natural analgesic or anti-inflammatory properties, it is highly doubtful that they would be effective for treating a mechanical problem like sciatica. You might be able to achieve a certain level of comfort with one of these products, however, you would probably get better results for far less money by simply taking an over-the-counter medication such as Aleve or Motrin.

    In an upcoming article, we will take a closer look at some of these products, so stay tuned.

    Till next time,

    07 Feb 2009 08:13 pm

    Writer’s Block Feb 7

    Feb 07, 2009

    Neck Pain: When to See a Doctor?

    It would be very easy to write and tell you to always see your doctor if you have neck pain. The problem is, you’re probably not going to do that. If you’re like most people (myself included), you’re going to wait and see if it doesn’t go away on its own.

    Fortunately, most neck pain is not serious and will do just that. So, rather than give you advice we both know you’re not going to follow, here’s a checklist of symptoms that indicate when you should see your doctor right away:

    Read more…


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