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back pain

Back Problems


Some Symptoms and Causes

Back problems manifest themselves in many ways. These can include:

  • Pain in the affected area of the back.
  • Referred pain in other parts of the body, including the legs and arms.
  • Referred sensory problems, such as tingling, numbness, or feelings of hot or cold.

Back discomfort while operating a computer can be a result of a variety of causes, including:

What people find helpful
Adjustable-Height Workstations

Adjustable-Height Workstations
An adjustable-height workstation allows the operator to move from sitting to standing. This change of position can help the operator deal with back pain.
  • Awkward sitting posture for a prolonged period of time. This could include perching (sitting too far forward in your chair), slouching, or twisting. This frequently applies to operating a laptop, as laptops are often setup wherever a space is available -often in awkward positions.
  • Head being held at an awkward angle for a prolonged period of time (such as leaning forward to try to read small text on a screen or document).
  • Frequent twisting of the neck in order to read source documents, reach the telephone, or reach other frequently used items (stapler, reference book, etc.).
  • Some people are required to frequently access a printer in order to retrieve printed documents. In these cases, the printer is usually located within the employee's workspace, but is often setup as an afterthought. Printer location and setup, where there is a lot of twisting or bending in order to get the document, will contribute to back discomfort.


Twisting the Head and Neck

neck twisting

Twisting the head and neck to view source documents can contribute to back pain and discomfort.



neck straight

Positioning your keyboard, source documents, and monitor in a straight line will greatly reduce neck twisting and associated back pain.



Solutions to Consider

Back problems are best dealt with through changes in your posture while operating a computer.


  • Do you spend a lot of time leaning forward, maybe resting your forearms on the desk?
  • How are you sitting; what is the height of your desk?
  • Do you have to perch on the edge of your chair, or are you slouching?
  • Are you twisting your neck, or perhaps your upper body, in order to read a document?
  • Are you twising your neck, or perhaps your upper body, to reach for the telephone? Do you bend your head to your shoulder in order to hold the telephone receiver while you type?

These and other issues should be considered when addressing back problems.


  • Workstation Height
    • Adjustable-height workstations can help you deal with back pain by allowing you to adjust the height of your work surface from sitting to standing. Prolonged sitting can result in back discomfort. This discomfort can be relieved by standing for periods of time.
  • Seating:
    • An ergonomic adjustable office chair is highly recommended.
    • Consider a footrest if your desk is too high .
  • Monitor
    • Consider an adjustable monitor arm to allow you to easily reposition the monitor height, angle, and distance.
  • Document Holders
    • Consider a document or book holder to allow you to position the document in line with the monitor (preferred position) or immediately beside the monitor.
  • Telephone
    • Consider a telephone headset.
    • Consider an adjustable telephone arm to allow you to easily reposition the telephone, as well as to allow you to move it out of your way when it is not in use.