Every year when it’s back to school time parents make sure their kids have the best supplies, backpacks, and clothes for a successful year of learning — but do they ever make sure they also have the best supplies, bags, or shoes for work and commuting? The answer is no.
Many adults continue to use the same items year after year until they run them into the ground. But are those items the best for your back and neck? Here is my checklist of 8 items you need for work to keep back pain at bay.
Whether your commute includes a lot of walking, or you’re standing on your feet all day at work, your shoes need to support you. Back pain can have a direct correlation with your footwear, so investing in a good pair of shoes will help keep you present at work. Nowadays there are plenty of stylish dress shoes, in both mens and womens, that come with memory foam built-in. You also want to look for shoes that have insoles with good arch support so that your weight is evenly distributed. And if you do walk as part of your commute, consider wearing a more athletic pair of shoes for commuting since walking is an exercise — you can slide the nicer dress shoes on once you get to the office.
There’s a reason kids wear backpacks for school; by having a strap on either side of your body the weight in the backpack is evenly distributed. With adults, we tend to lean towards one shoulder bags or briefcases that we have to hold in one hand. It’s easier to throw all of our stuff in these, and they are widely available in every store we shop in. But if we actually took the time to think about what is best for our health, we would realize that using a backpack, a rolling briefcase, or at the least a cross-bodied messenger bag would be better for our aging spines.
Sitting in a car or at a desk for long periods of time can do a lot of damage to your spine. When you sit, your spine curves, and pressure is placed on the discs. To help alleviate that pressure, you need lumbar support. Unfortunately, both car and office seats are built with standard lumbar support, if any. So to assist your unique spine, an added lumbar support is key. Even a rolled-up towel or blanket can give you customized support better than what is already there.
Like I said, sitting places pressure on the discs of your spine. So when available, standing desks can be very beneficial. The most commonly used items for standing are either monitor/laptop risers or mini desks that can rise while sitting on top of your desk, but some desks can raise and lower themselves with a push of a button for standing or sitting. Any of these will allow you to switch up between sitting and standing during the day, and help your spine stretch when choosing to stand.
To go along with your standing desk, an anti-fatigue mat provides great support to your spine and body while you stand. These mats assist with better posture and blood flow, thus reducing the strain that can cause pain in your lower back, knees, and feet. Many people who already suffer from back pain find significant improvement during work when using these mats.
Tech neck is a condition that most people don’t realize they have until someone else points it out to them. Monitors and laptop risers allow us to keep our eyes up and level when we’re on our computer, but what about when we’re using our phones? For most people their cell phone lays on their desk during the day; causing them to bend their neck in a very unhealthy and unnecessary position — this causes tech neck. Having a small stand for your phone to sit upright lets you keep the strain off of your neck when using your phone. Cell phone stands come in all shapes, colors, and designs – so use this small piece as a way to show your coworkers your personality and style.
For those who work in industries that still rely on paper copy to be input into electronic copy, a document holder is a must. Just like a cell phone stand or monitor riser, having a document holder eliminates the stress on your neck from looking down to read the text. And for those that have to do this type of work all day every day, using a pair of blue light-blocking glasses is a good idea to help avoid eye strain and headaches from staring at your computer for long periods of time.
Last but not least, a water bottle or tumbler is something you should keep with you at all times. Did you know that the discs in your spine are composed of up to 85% of water? A dehydrated spine can cause back pain, so it is important to continuously rehydrate to keep the discs in your spine hydrated and healthy. Look for a bottle or tumbler that has tick marks to show you how much water you’ve consumed, and how much water is left. And if you want something more high-tech, some water bottles can alert you when it’s time to drink more.
Setting your kid up for success is important, but it’s also important to focus on your health and success as well. When back to school time comes around each year, make sure you too are checking the items you’ve used for the past year, and purchasing new items that are needed for yourself to use for your commute and at work. Lead by example, and make sure your whole family lives an active healthy lifestyle. And if back or neck pain does develop, make sure to schedule a consultation with us at Virginia Spine Institute. We can help get you on the right path to living a pain-free life.
Reviewed by: Dr. Ehsan Jazini, MD, FACS.
Reviewed by: Dr. Ehsan Jazini, MD, FACS.