3 Ways to Reduce Back and Neck Pain at Work

Work Break Ideas
Work Break Ideas. Ryan McVay / Getty Images

3 Work Break Ideas

The body is not designed to be static for long periods of time. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends a ten-minute rest after two hours if your keying work is of moderate intensity, and a 15-minute rest after one hour if it is intense. You can also take work breaks without straying (very far) from your desk.

Work breaks at or near your desk can be small, so no need to worry about getting in trouble with the boss. Here are a few ideas for things you can do during a computer break that may help you avoid/manage neck or back pain:

Change your Position every 10-15 minutes.

Fidgeting isn’t as bad a habit as you may have been taught. Just use fidgeting consciously. In other words, when your work break consists of fidgeting, try to get your whole body involved in the action. Here are some other things you might try: 

  • Adjust where you are in relation to your work. Experts tell us we should squarely face the computer and desk. So take a moment to reset your desk posture. It may involve untwisting your spine or working the controls on your chair so that your hips, knees and elbows angles are 90 degrees (right angles).
  • Stretch your arms up toward the ceiling to counteract the compression that comes from sitting.
  • Press up using your hands on the arm rests of your chair (and support yourself on your feet, as well). Let your trunk “dangle” to give a little traction to your low back.
  • Try posture exercises.
  • If you've never injured your back, you might consider using an exercise ball chair on a limited basis. They are not for everyone, though.

Get Away From Your Desk

Sometimes we have the choice to move, but we don't take it. When it comes to protecting your back's health, (as well as burning a few extra calories), that attitude is a no-no. Get up and go to the drinking fountain regularly or designate part of your lunch hour as walking time. I know of one corporate executive who takes the stairs every time she goes for quick visits to colleagues on nearby floors.

Breathe Deeply

Breathing exercises are great for posture. This is partially because breathing muscles do double duty as posture helpers, especially, the diaphragm, abdominals, and intercostals.  Breathing exercises may also refresh your mental outlook and give you an energy boost.

While not a work break idea, establishing and maintaining good posture at the computer can do wonders for your neck and back. 

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Article Sources

  • Source:
  • Working Safely with Video Display Terminals. U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA 3092. 1997 (revised).