IN Spain, it has been estimated that on average around 6.4 million people take sick-leave each week citing muscular-skeletal problems as the reason.Out of these, 40.9 per cent of the work force experiencing lower back pain, 40 per cent with neck pain, and 22.9 per cent with upper back pain.
It is the major cause of absenteeism from the work-place causing significant economic loss, which researchers deem can be combated by using ergonomic office chairs.
It has been estimated that at some point in their lives, 80 per cent of people experience some form of back or neck problems.
While there may be many causes for back and neck pain, much research has pointed to bad posture and office chairs.
“Sitting in an office chair for prolonged periods of time can definitely cause low back pain or worsen an existing back or neck problem,” revealed Dr John J Triano, research professor in the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center Arlington, Joint Biomedical Engineering Program, on spine-health.com.
He explained that the reason for this is that sitting in a static posture that increases stress in the back, neck, shoulders, arms and legs, puts a lot of strain on the back muscles and spinal discs.
Furthermore, when one sits in an office chair for an extended period, the tendency is to slouch over or slouch down in the chair.
This is especially the case if the chair doesn’t offer a back support.
Triano pointed out that over time, “incorrect sitting posture and workplace ergonomics can damage spinal structures and contribute to or exacerbate recurrent episodes of back pain.”
He affirms that an ergonomic office chair is vital to back health, as it can “help one maximize back support and maintain good posture while sitting.”
Optimal chair positioning
Elbow measure: elbows should be at a 90-degree angle when resting your hands on the work surface,
Thigh measure: there should be sufficient space between your thighs and the desk.
Calf measure: a clenched fist should fit between the edge of the chair and your calf.
Low back support: there should be a cushion that causes the lower back to arch slightly to prevent slouching; this is essential,
Resting eye level: with the head facing forward, the centre of the screen should be right in front of vision; if not neck-strain occurs,
Armrest: this is important as it takes some of the strain off neck and shoulders and helps to prevent slouching.
It should also be noted that even with an ergonomic chair it is crucial for back health to stretch and walk for at least a minute or two every half hour, according to Triano, with a walk to the water cooler or bathroom being sufficient.
While a 20 minute walk, which could be taken during a lunch break, helps even more as it “promotes healthy blood flow that brings important nutrients to all the spinal structures.”
This has the added benefit of a “more productive” workforce.