College courses and internships prepare you for most things you'll encounter in your first real office job, and office sitcoms cover the majority of the others. So when your coworker puts your stapler in Jello, you'll be ready. When you need to prepare a presentation for management, you'll rely on tips from your esteemed professors.
What you may not be prepared for are the myriad pain points you'll experience with office life -- specifically, back pain. Between gaining an extra few pounds thanks to office cookie contests and sitting in the same chair every recruit has occupied since 1983, you're going to have some unexpected back pain.
Check out "A Back Story," a free illustrated guide, to find out how you can navigate everyday situations to avoid back injury. You'll be amazed at how much the little decisions you make all day, every day can impact your spine health. Here are some tips to implement right away.
1. Consider your exercise routine.
Lifting 100 pounds over your head isn't going to solve back problems. It's more likely to cause them. Likewise, doing 50 crunches a day probably won't make the pain go away, it may make it worse. Instead, focus on strengthening your core with low-impact exercises like yoga or assisted lifting moderate weights. Lifting free-weights is a great option if you're working with a trainer, but you may add too much stress to your joints (or injure yourself) if you're lifting on your own.
2. Use a footstool.
For most people, it's tough to find a desk arrangement that allows you to have your feet flat on the floor and your forearms resting on your desk. You usually have to sacrifice one for the other -- or compromise by awkwardly balancing your feet on your chair legs. Skip the dance and get a small adjustable footstool. Ideally, it will tilt slightly toward you. This reduces pressure on your spine by alleviating the weight of your feet.
3. Adjust the position of your monitor.
For every inch you lean forward, another 10 pounds of pressure is applied to your neck. Unfortunately, putting books on your head to straighten out your posture doesn't to work. Instead, put your monitor on a raised platform, and sit straight up in your regular desk chair. If you have to look down to see your monitor, it's too low. Raise it to encourage better posture. If that doesn't work for you, put a small pillow behind your lower back so you're less tempted to let your spine curve out.
4. Wear sensible shoes.
You probably already know that high heels aren't great for your back, but those ballet flats aren't doing much for your spine health either. Flats without much padding don't offer enough shock absorption, which ups the pressure on your spine as you walk. You'll first notice pain in your feet if your shoes aren't quite right; if left unaddressed, it can affect your back. Heels higher than 1.5 inches require you to walk in unnatural patterns. That hip sway may look cute, but it's twisting your spine and giving you a sore lower back that may turn into long-term problems.
5. Chat online more.
Text neck is a relatively new phenomenon. Despite its somewhat cute name, text neck is a trigger for neck and upper back pain. Holding your phone at elbow-height requires you to lean over, putting massive amounts of pressure on your neck. This pressure leads to pain if texting is your preferred platform for staying in touch with family and friends. Instead of texting, use services like Gchat or Skype messaging to talk when possible.
Making these and other small changes in your daily habits early on in your career can help prevent you from dealing with spine health issues later on in life. Even better, some small changes can help you feel better instantly. So sit up straight and get back to work -- and enjoy a life without back pain.