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Top tips for rocking a desk job without breaking your back

Even though I’m only 28 , sometimes I feel like I’m about 100. Sitting at my desk for upwards of 50 hours a week (conservatively) has taken a toll on my body. While I enjoy the lifestyle of full time work, the constant battle against cracking joints, stiff muscles, and a creaky and sore body that makes me resemble a slow-moving gnome with a limp, is less welcome.

That’s why today I’ve teamed up with Robbie from Realign Myotherapy, my go-to on all things back health, to share some simple lifestyle changes to prevent back pain and help keep your body feeling good. He’s been an absolute lifesaver over the last few years, helping me balance the lifestyle I want outside of work with that 10+ hour a day sitting habit of mine! Over to you, Robbie.

First up – a few stats on back pain because you know you’re not the only one committing sins of poor posture! By now, we’ve all heard the saying “sitting is the new smoking” but is there any truth to it?

Well, lower back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, and back pain is the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office.

On top of that, most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic meaning they are not caused by serious conditions. Put another way, they are preventable and often caused by something we’re doing, i.e. sitting for long, uninterrupted stretches of time!

So if your job is forcing you into the life-sapping throne for hours-on-end, read on.

Get set up

The most important thing when thinking about back health and avoiding workplace injuries is correct ergonomics. Most workplaces offer workstation assessments and can set you up to encourage correct posture at your desk. Even better, more and more workplaces also provide stand-up desks to staff with ongoing back issues (or in some great companies – to all staff!).

Get moving

This is kind of stating the obvious but move often. Even though we know we should get up regularly at work, often, once we get started on a task, we just don’t. There are heaps of handy smartphone apps that can help. Stand up! is a great, free option – set it to remind you every 30 minutes. It’s shocking how quickly the minutes tick by!

While you’re up, cut a lap of the office and get your daily step count up. Health experts recommend walking at least 10,000 steps a day.There are plenty of fancy fitness watches that monitor your activity level but the free ‘Health’ app on your iPhone is just as helpful. Sure it won’t pick up everything but it gives a good indication of your daily activity.

A simple habit you can easily work into your day is to head outside and go for a walk if you need to make a personal call. You’ll get bonus points for fresh air + vitamin D!

Invest in your core

The importance of strong spinal stabilisers and “core” muscles in good back health cannot be overestimated. We aren’t talking about your typical washboard 6-pack abs here, we’re talking about the muscles that sit a little deeper and support your spine. They play a crucial  role in helping you achieve good posture. It really is as easy as just a few minutes a day.

Yoga or pilates are obviously great for building core strength but for something super convenient add some planks to your morning routine. They’re so simple you can do them in your pyjamas – do a few in a row and hold for as long as you can.

Stretch (and roll) it out

There are a heap of benefits to waking up earlier, including finding 10 minutes to stretch out your weary body before work. After you’ve done a little warm up and a few core exercises, tack on some stretches.  

While you’re at it, add foam rolling to your stretching routine too. Foam rolling (while a little painful to start out) is essential to lengthening muscle tissue and freeing up stiff joints. Once you start to feel the benefits of rolling out your tense, achy muscles, you’ll be addicted!

See a professional

Of course, it’s important to check in with your health practitioner before you make any significant lifestyle changes, if you’re struggling with a serious or ongoing issue, or if you have any concerns that need assessing. Schedule in regular sessions with your practitioner to ensure you’re on the right track and to make any required readjustments to your treatment plan.

And remember, prevention is better than a cure so set yourself up correctly, move often, sneak in some extra steps, activate that core and roll away your tension.

Robbie Allan is a qualified Myotherapist and the owner of Realign Myotherapy. He specialises in the assessment and treatment of soft tissue injuries and dysfunction, with a strong focus on injury rehabilitation through muscle retraining and strengthening.

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