6 ways to keep your spine and back pain-free when you sit in front of a computer all day

If you’re spending your days switching between hunching over a laptop and swiping on a phone, you’re likely to end your day with a dull ache in your neck and back. This tilt can cause the spine to compress prematurely, resulting in chronic pain and injuries. Sounds familiar? A sedentary lifestyle results in weakness of muscles, stiffness of joints and osteoporosis—all of which can result in back pain, shares Dr Gautam Zaveri, surgeon at Mumbai-based Zen Multispecialty Hospital. “Prolonged sitting, or standing in the same posture and lack of awareness about posture transition—that is how to move from sitting to standing, from lying to sitting up, can put undue stress on the spine,” says Dr Shailendra Chaubey, Ayurvedic physician and medical director of Vedary.

Doctors also suggest that slouching on the couch, sleeping on an unsupportive mattress, carrying heavy bags and hunching a desk can be very taxing for the back. While incorrect posture and sedentary lifestyle are primary causes of spine damage, smoking and alcohol also add their bit in putting excessive pressure on the spine. Sounds far-fetched? But it’s not. “Smokers are known to suffer from accelerated degeneration of intervertebral disc resulting in back pain. Alcoholism leads to osteoporosis which makes the bones brittle and likely to fracture easily,” adds Dr Zaveri.

When it comes to spine health, prevention is better than cure. Here’s a list of expert-approved ways to take care of your backbone.

1. Sit straight

“A right sitting posture means you are sitting on a chair with a backrest that is at 100-110 degrees with your buttock touching the backrest and your spine fully supported. Make sure your legs are not dangling. If you do not reach the ground, you can use a foot rest to alleviate pressure,” explains Dr Vikas Tandon, senior spine specialist, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre.

2. Be tech-smart

To avoid ‘text neck’ or neck and back pain associated with cellphone over use, watch your posture. When you bend your neck forward to look into phone, you are moving out of the neutral spine position, thereby putting excessive strain on the spine. The easiest solution? Try holding your phone at eye-level instead of looking down into your lap. Similarly place the laptop in a position where the screen is at your eye level. Doctors also suggest refraining from cradling the phone between the ear and shoulder, as this can cause cricks in the back and neck. Taking the time to stretch, walk around and move in the day can help as well.

3. Focus on the core

“The spine remains erect because of a fine balance between the muscles in front that is abdominal muscles and muscles in the back which are extensor spine muscles,” elaborates Dr Tandon. According to Dr Chaubey, it’s the core strength that plays a vital role in keeping the spine healthy. “Weight does impact the spine, but more than weight it is the inactive lifestyle which leads to a weak spine. If a person is overweight but has good muscular strength and strong core, he or she is less likely to get spinal problems,” states Dr Chaubey.

4. Be mindful while working out

Many spine injuries have their roots in improper exercise routines. “Without sufficient warm up and stretching sessions, the muscles stay in a contracted state, and working out a muscle in state of contraction is calling for an injury or spasm,” explains Dr Chaubey.

To avoid injuries while working out, Dr Tandon urges to make sure the weight and balance of the equipment are right for your spine strength. “Just work out regularly and moderately. If you have an injury in the muscles or tendons or bone, make sure you rest enough before resuming,” he suggests.

5. Sleep right

“While it is a fact that nobody knows how one is sleeping once you have slept, but if asked about the right way then the answer would be lie straight on the bed so that your spine is in normal anatomical posture and relaxed,” says Dr Tandon. Though mattresses matter a lot, he refrains from recommending any particular type. “People have different preferences and the most important aspect is getting a good night’s sleep rather than no sleep on the best and most expensive or ergonomic mattress. The basic rule is, it should be firm, not too hard or too soft or sagging.”

6. Bend with care

“If you have to bend down to pull up something from the ground one should do it after bending the hips and knees. If you have to lift something heavy, follow the simple principles of physics: try to keep the weight close to the body rather than away from it to reduce the stresses on the spine,” advises Dr Tandon.

This article first appeared in Vogue


  • Aparrna Gupta

    Transitioning from crafting stories for The Asian Age and Bombay Times to setting beauty trends in Verve, Aparrna Gupta’s journey has always revolved around resonant storytelling. Her prowess in content creation is unparalleled, with articles featured in renowned publications like Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel India, Lifestyle Asia, Elle, and Femina. She also excels in content ideation, trend identification, mood board creation, and product styling. Her expertise has proven invaluable to homegrown brands, enabling them to authentically connect with their audience.

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