How to avoid pain in your back, neck, and shoulders

More than 880,000 Danes live with lower-back pain, while more than 550,000 suffer from neck pain. These are the findings of a report from the Danish Health and Medicines Authority. And the consequences are serious – both for the individual and for society. Fortunately, we can all do something to turn things around. Introducing more movement in your workday is a good place to start.

For the individuals struggling daily with pain, it can be both physically debilitating and mentally taxing, and for society such problems can be costly. Very costly in fact:

Neck pain alone costs society DKK 920 million a year in treatments – not to mention the DKK 2,030 million that disappears into thin air every year in lost productivity.

Our problematic, sedentary lifestyle
These are very high costs – both personal and societal. But what is at the root of all this misery? According to the Danish Health and Medicines Authority and numerous other experts in the field, several factors play a role; however sedentary work and poor working postures represent the primary causes of these problems.

And when we combine these expert findings with the fact that nearly 40% of employed Danes, or 776,000 people, sit still for three-quarters of their workday or longer, we begin to see the contours of a future characterised by chronic lower-back pain and neck pain. Not to mention the thousands of children and young people (30,000 in 2015) who are referred to physical therapy because they spend hours every day on their smartphones, tablets and computers.

“40% of employed Danes sit still for ¾ of their workday or longer”

Change positions and move about
When we sit down as much as we do, it not only weakens muscles and joints – it also causes increased risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. This seems like the perfect time to point out that exercise outside work can help protect against these ailments, which is true – but it is not enough.

When you sit at a desk for 7 or 8 hours, it is important also to incorporate movement into your workday. Furthermore, a more or less fixed sitting position in front of the computer is tough on our bodies, causing problems for the neck, shoulders, forearms, hands and wrists.

These issues and challenges are pronounced and genuine. But how do we eliminate them? The answers vary depending on which specific problem is in focus, but two elements in particular have the potential to make a difference in the grand scheme of things: varying your working postures and incorporating more movement into your workday.

10 helpful tips: How to avoid pain
If you are looking to make life easier for your body and put an end to pain, there are many ways to go about it.
We present here some of the methods that are most effective and easiest to implement:


Move around.
Move your legs – for example, make it a habit to walk around when you talk on the phone.


Vary your working postures.
Avoid unilateral movements when working at the computer for long periods of time.


Lift your head up.
Thanks to our smartphones and tablets, many of us live a life with bent necks. This causes wear, pain and complications. Lift your head, pull your shoulders back and sit up straight – this will help reduce much of the strain. If possible, adjust the height of your computer monitor. You should look at your screen at a slight downward angle – more specifically, your monitor should be around 15 cm below eye level.


Use your height-adjustable desk.
If you have a height-adjustable desk, remember to change the height and stand up several times a day.


Supplement with a balance board.
If you find standing up for an extended period of time difficult, it may help to use a balance board. This increases your blood circulation and strengthens your back.


Use a good chair.
Invest in an ergonomic desk chair that offers several adjustment options. It should be possible to adjust the height of both the seat and back, as well as the angle of the back so it provides support right where you need it. Remember to use these options and change sitting positions several times a day.


Try a saddle chair.
If you’re having trouble finding a desk chair that suits you, it might be worthwhile to try a saddle chair, which promotes more open sitting positions.


Don’t use the legs on your keyboard.
When you use a keyboard or mouse, it’s important to keep your hands as flat as possible. This helps avoid strain on the muscles of your forearm.


Drop the double click.
Avoid double clicking with the mouse, as it puts a concentrated strain on your muscle fibres. Newer mice often have a special button for the double click function.


Take breaks from the computer to allow both your body and your brain to relax.

What is ergonomics?
The simple definition is that ergonomics is about preventing injury – typically in connection with muscular action and undesirable working postures that can cause pain and complications. The more complex definition is that it is an interdisciplinary science that utilises medical, psychological and technical theory, knowledge and experience to prevent injuries in the workplace resulting from the work itself or the working environment in general.