Ergonomic Essentials for a Healthy Spine: Tips for Proper Sitting and Lifting


Does your back hurt after work? It could be due to how your workplace is designed.

Ergonomics is the study of how work environments affect your musculoskeletal system. Why is that important? Because how you sit and lift at work can greatly damage your spine, and that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) of the back, neck, and shoulders. 

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workplace-related MSDs rank among the most frequently reported cases of lost or restricted work time, but an ergonomically designed workstation can keep your spine healthy and pain-free. 

Seven tips for how to design an ergonomic workplace

It’s a fact of modern life that we spend most of our workday staring at a computer screen as we sit at a desk. While great for productivity, it’s not so great for our spines. Specifically, your posture may get out of alignment, causing back, neck, and shoulder pain. By creating an ergonomic workstation that supports your spine and following these other tips, your back will no longer ache after a long day at work.

Choose the right chair. It all starts with the right chair, and that means one with lumbar support. The natural, or neutral, position of the spine is an “S” curve. When you sit, your lower spine naturally curves inward toward your stomach. To support the lower back, a lumbar support chair fills in the gap between the lower back and the chair so your spine will stay in proper alignment. But most importantly, a lumbar support chair prevents you from slouching, which is one of the worst things you can do to your spine.

Sit properly. Once in your chair, check how you’re positioned in relation to your desk. For instance, sit as close as you can to the desk with your upper arms parallel to your spine. When you rest your hands on the work surface, your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle. If not, raise or lower the chair. Also, make sure your eyes stare straight at the middle of the computer screen. 

Get a sit/stand desk. Staying seated for long hours can cause your back to stiffen up and ache. A sit/stand desk gives you the option of alternating between sitting and standing, so your back gets an occasional break.

Stretch. Unlock stiff muscles with stretching exercises. Weave your fingers together and lift your arms above your head. Keep your elbows straight as you press your arms back and stretch to one side. Count to 10. Do three to five times on each side. Or do a shoulder roll by slowly moving your shoulders up and backward as your back is supported in your chair. Repeat 10 times.

Lift the right way. If you work at a job that requires heavy lifting, you can ease the strain on your back by lifting the right way. Never lift with your back muscles. Instead, let your legs carry most of the burden. Start by bending at the knees, not the waist. Get a firm grip on the object and keep it close to your body so you don’t arch your lower back. Slowly lift without making any jerky movements that can cause a sprain.

Move. Being stuck at a desk all day doesn’t mean you have to stay stuck at a desk all day. Set a timer to remind you to get up and take a brief stroll around the office. At lunchtime, take a brisk walk instead of sitting at your desk.

Don’t wait for pain to happen. You may not be feeling any pain now, but you might in the future. Take the time now to design an ergonomic workplace to protect your spine from pain one day. It will pay off when you can work without an aching back.

Don’t let back pain ruin your day

At New York Bone & Joint Specialists, we’ve helped hundreds of patients overcome back pain. We’ll determine what’s causing your pain, and give you guidance on how to improve your posture and design the right work setup so you can maintain a strong, healthy spine. Contact us today for a consultation.

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