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Yikes! My back is killing me.

Your make-shift home office chair may be giving you aches and pains that are just a little annoying now but could lead to permanent injuries later. If getting a new ergonomic chair is not in the cards for you, at least incorporate as many of these 8 tips as possible to do what you can to find some comfort now and reduce the chance of long-term damage to your back.

  1. The best posture is the NEXT posture. The kindest thing you can do for your body is to move - a lot. Get up out of your chair and walk, stand, stretch, or change locations every chance you get. Increasing circulation through movement is probably the #1 gift you can give your back. NEVER sit longer than 53 minutes at a time.

  2. Support your lower back. If your chair doesn’t already have lumbar support, roll up a towel or scarf or use a small pillow to add gentle cushion or support at your lower back. Selecting a chair with a closed back will make this easier.

  3. Avoid sitting on a hard seat. Choose a chair with a cushion or add one. Avoid pretzling up your foot to sit on it as your “cushion”. Unless you have freakishly large, squishy feet, this won’t add much comfort for your back & could actually hurt your feet and ankles in the process.

  4. Skip the armrests. Adjustable armrests on a “proper” ergonomic office chair are great, but the poorly fitted, ridged arms added for looks (not function) are not your friend. Chances are they will just make it difficult to pull up closely to your worktable/desk. Good arm rests should allow you to keep your upper arms positioned snuggly to your body and allow your forearms to be parallel to the floor.

  5. Change from one chair to another. If you are deciding between 2 chairs that seem to have equal pros and cons, consider trading off. Use one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, or every other day, or even every other hour. Variety alone can minimize the likelihood of developing a cumulative trauma disorder (CTD).

  6. Choose the right height. Your chair should allow you to work on your computer without hunching over it or make you feel like you are reaching up to your keyboard. Your feet should comfortably sit flat on the floor. You may find that it makes more sense to change the height of your table or desk instead of the chair since the chair gets moved more than the table/desk. Adding a pillow or cushion to sit on might be all you need to get a good height.

  7. Bring the heat. Consider adding a heating pad to yourself or your chair to keep your back muscles warm - the way that many car seats do. Don’t get too crazy, though. I wouldn’t want you to overheat or dehydrate.

  8. Listen to your body. Take the time to really think about what is sore or stiff after working for a while or perhaps what hurts the next day when you roll out of bed. Don’t ignore the little aches and pains. They can get worse over time and are going to be easier to prevent than cure.

Let me be clear, if you can get a fully adjustable ergonomically designed chair – do it! Do it now! Do not try to tough it out if you are experiencing back discomfort. In the meantime, give these 8 tips a try or share what works for you.

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