May 23, 2019

Don't be a statistic - avoid the "back trap", article by Moira D'Arcy, Chartered Physiotherapist

Modern day living can make us all more sedentary if we let it and make it more likely that we become one of the 80% of the adult population who get back pain at some stage in their lives.

Stats like “more than 30 million working days are lost per year due to back pain and that back pain costs the NHS more than a billion a year” can just float over our heads with a “oh dear but that’s not me” … but it could be.

workstation advice

Simply thinking smart about your day can increase your daily activity and bring many health benefits, not just those associated with keeping your back healthy.

The ideal working day is about finding the balance between moving, standing and sitting. Cornell University developed the following model for the ideal work pattern – every half hour we should do:

• 20 minutes sitting
• 8 minutes standing
• 2 minutes moving or stretching

Getting up and moving around is easier if we schedule it in, and if necessary, time it. I often recommend getting a phone alarm to patients that I am treating with back pain, so that they do not forget to get up and move about.

At our clinic, we have an automatic door realise if the entry buzzer is pressed, but I do encourage staff to get up to answer the door when they can. The benefits are two-fold, a change in position for the member of staff and a more personal greeting for the client.  We do not have lifts in our building, in fact, we have a flight of stairs to some of our treatment rooms and a flight of stairs to the cellar, where our supplies are kept, so “take the stairs” is not negotiable so try abandoning the lift if you have one, when you can.

Incorporate some basic stretches for your neck, back, wrists and legs and do them regularly. There is a lot on line but if you are worried about neck or back issues already, then consult with a Chartered Physiotherapist. We have expert Musculoskeletal MSK physiotherapists that could help advise you.  Some offices have standing desks to help vary their staff’s time in sitting and standing.  Whether you are sitting or standing, the following tips should help.


• Feet supported
• Hips slightly higher than knees
• Sit back in the chair so you are supported
• Forearms level to desk
• Eyes level with top of screen


• Forearms level to desk
• Head balanced
• Shoulders relaxed
• Feet hips distance apart
• Consider using a foot rest

And then there is your whole workstation environment. You can either get this checked professionally. At St Judes we work alongside Mike Betts for this (see our page)


• Arms should be relaxed by sides supported on the table
• Screen approximately arm’s length away
• Top of screen about eye level
• Sitting back in chair
• Feet flat on floor or a foot rest
• Space behind knee
• All this should result in head balanced over body, not leaning forward

Same points as above but use a lap top stand so that your screen height again comes to eye level.


First point is that tablets are handy for short periods, but for longer periods a correct work station set up is a better option.
• When reading, use a stand or tilt the tablet to reduce the need for you to bend your head forward to read.
• Whenever possible try to place the tablet on a surface rather than holding it. If you are using the on-screen keyboard for extended periods consider using a blue tooth external keyboard.
• Use a light touch when using the screen it will be more efficient as well as preventing problems.
• If you find you are leaning forwards to view the tablet, enlarge the image or text.
• Keep your screen clean for good visibility and hygiene reasons.
• Remember movement is really important. If you find yourself using a tablet intensively for more than 10-20 mins take a short break, stretch your hands, shoulders and neck and look into the distance to relax your eyes.

Lastly, if you require further advice or help with aches and pains, St Judes will be happy to assist you.