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7 tips to avoid back pain

Musculoskeletal disorders are the biggest cause of disability. Despite the billions spent, the problem is just getting worse. Latest medical guidelines strongly recommend exercise therapy as the first-line-treatment for musculoskeletal disorders instead of much more expensive surgeries.

From the team at Action Physiotherapy – Newcastle

Lockdown… While it’s nice to be on the other side of it, one of our biggest complaints at the moment is back pain. Either we’re spending more time in front of a screen and less time moving, or we’re returning to sport and going too hard, too fast.

We’ve put together 7 Helpful Tips to help you avoid back or neck pain. There are no miracle cures, but every little step counts! 


1. Home Office Setup

Poor ergonomic setup is probably the biggest culprit for neck and back pain at the moment.

No fancy equipment is needed here – just knowledge!

Desk & Chair

  • Hip/Knee/Ankle at 90 degrees
  • If your chair doesn’t have lumbar support, we suggest either using a small pillow, rolled-up towel or purchasing one of our Obus Lowback Support Cushions.
  • The lumbar support should fit right into the natural curve of your spine, typically at the small of your back directly above your belt line.

Keyboard and Mouse

  • Keyboard positioned directly in front of you (letter B should be right in front of you) – roughly 60 to 100mm from the edge of the desk
  • Wrists maintained in a neutral position – elbows should be at 90 degrees, forearms parallel to the floor
  • Keyboard legs are down (legs up causes excessive wrist extension)
  • Mouse positioned directly next to the keyboard – wrist should be neutral and elbows by your side when performing mouse movements



  • Monitor positioned directly in front of you and the keyboard – approximately one arm’s length away from you
  • Eye level falls within the top third of monitor screen when looking straight ahead
  • If using two monitors have screens at the same level, and sit directly in front of the middle of the screens Avoid twisting your head and torso to view screens.



If you are still working from home, try to avoid working from the sofa or bed. A lot of neck pain can be attributed to people sitting on the sofa and looking down at their laptop.


2. Don’t just sit there

Move more, sit less.

  • If you’re working from home, set an alarm to remind yourself to get up and go to the kitchen for a glass of water.
  • Every 20 to 30 minutes stand, stretch and move around for a minute or two to promote circulation and relax muscles.
  • Sit/Stand desk users – alternate every 30 mins.

Test Yourself – Calculate the time (in hours) you spend sitting each day.


3. Exercise

We all know that we should aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day… Right?  Exercise can make us feel better – more energy, a better mood, feel more relaxed and sleep better.

People with desk jobs are typically at greater risk of developing health issues related to excessive sedentary time.

Too much inactivity can weaken the muscles over time, which is bad news for anyone who has to sit at a desk for over eight hours a day. Doing some desk exercises, no matter how minimal, allows you to engage in dynamic movements that keep your muscles in use throughout the day.

Pick several stretches each half hour which will take about a minute, holding each stretch gently for about five seconds.

They could include:

  • squeezing your shoulder blades together
  • shoulder rolls
  • touching your toes
  • extending backwards
  • stretching the forearms and neck gently
  • calf raises.


4. Strengthening 

People with back pain often have weakness in the spine’s deep supporting muscles, which play a critical role in stabilising the spine.

The getback programme is designed to safely re-activate and strengthen these deep supporting muscles with precisely controlled loading and movement. 

getback™ uses rehabilitation devices designed by Biomechanists and Exercise Scientists to safely target the correct muscles and work in a range of movement which is pain free. Every treatment of your individual programme is supervised by our Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists.


5. Posture

Sitting and standing with proper alignment improves blood flow, helps keep your nerves and blood vessels healthy, and supports your muscles, ligaments, and tendons. People who make a habit of using correct posture are less likely to experience related back and neck pain.

Here’s a quick posture check-in: When sitting, your feet should rest flat on the floor, with even weight on both hips. Your back should be mostly straight (you’ll have natural curves in your lumbar, thoracic, and cervical areas). Your shoulders should be back but relaxed and your ears should line up over your collarbones.

When standing, your legs should have a slight knee bend so you’re not hyperextending or locking your knee joints. Tuck your chin in slightly which will in turn pull the top of your skull up.


6. Beware the post-lockdown return to sport

I know you’re so very keen and eager to get back into sport or daily exercise… but we need to minimise risk of injury as we return to sport and exercise.

Your body needs to adapt slowly to increased work loads after being off for so long. Make sure you increase your intensity and duration of exercise/sport gradually.

Instead of pulling out the boots and going straight into your first game, make sure to plan out an exercise regime that you can start 6-8 weeks before.


7. Seek help

‘I thought it would get better’. We hear this line so often.

It’s important to understand that your pain levels do not need to be excruciating. Lower level pains such as frequent nagging pains and dull headaches are a very common reason to see a Physiotherapist.

Don’t let nagging problems drag on for months or years, when there is something you can do about it today.

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