HomeNews & Media CentreArticlesCorporate HealthBack, Shoulder or Neck Pain? It Could Be Your Office Ergonomics.

Back, Shoulder or Neck Pain? It Could Be Your Office Ergonomics.

Neck, shoulder and back aches are common within the office work environment, whereby over 90% employees spend more than 4 hours a day behind a computer. This highlights the need for incorporating good workplace ergonomics, whether it be in your at-home workspace or workplace office, to alleviate the feelings of back, shoulder and neck pain and minimise the risk of injury.

Here are 5 helpful hints from Rehab Management on guiding your journey to have good ergonomics:

1. Stretch!

Just like you warm up for a sport or for the gym, it’s important to incorporate stretching to warm-up and successfully engage your body to start the working day. Next time you clock on for work, reduce the musculoskeletal impact on body through trying a Lateral Neck Rotation, Shoulder Warm-Up, Triceps Movement, Standing Back Stretch and Forearm Flexion.

To read more on these, check out our article here about stretches you can do at your desk: https://www.rehabmanagement.com.au/stretches-you-can-do-at-your-desk/

Taking short stretching breaks throughout the day is also important. Set yourself little stretch break reminders throughout the day to keep blood flowing and to avoid stagnant postures.


2. Break It Up.

Taking a break from work to allow your muscles to release the stress that naturally builds up from desk work or sustained postures, and has proven to re-energise, rehydrate, and stretch your body according to industry experts. On average, a posture break should be completed once per hour, which can be a quick stretch or alternating from sitting to stand. On top of this, a movement break away from your desk should be taken at least every 2 hours for at least 5-10 minutes. Going up and filling your water bottle, making a warm cup of coffee or taking a quick walk break and doing a lap of the office of your home will assist getting the body moving.

3. Reach Sectors.

Have you heard of reach sectors? A comfortable work environment should be set up with safe reach sectors, where you can comfortably have items you regularly use within reach, so you are not extending and straining repeatedly during the workday

Your forearms supported whilst maintaining a neutral posture rather than angling up and placing strain on the forearm during mousing and typing. Remember to take short breaks from your forearms in this position, and a useful action is to hang your arms by your sides, wriggle your fingers and count slowly to five and resume your task.

Whilst typing, ensure your keyboard legs are retracted to minimise forearm strains.

It is recommended that you vary your hand use for tasks as able throughout the workday (e.g. swap the mouse side, position your telephone on opposite side to the mouse, bringing your mouse close to the keyboard). Using a phone headset may also assist in minimising the need to reach to answer the phone repeatedly. The key takeaway is that all commonly used objects should be within comfortable arm reach without the need to extend and reach.

4. Rest Those Eyes.

We spend a lot of time looking at screens at work and at home such as your computer, your smart device and the television. This sustained screen time can cause eye fatigue and strain, including symptoms of dry, irritated or tired eyes. Tired eyes can also cause you to start to lean forward to focus on your work, causing you to not have adequate support from your chair.

Therefore it is important to be taking an eye rest break away from the computer regularly and apply the ’20-20-20′ rule; “Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break look at something 6 meters (20 feet) away.”

You do not have to measure 6 meters exactly, just focus your gaze on something further away from  you, for example looking out a window at an object that seems far away, or a building or tree across the street.


5. Managing Your Workstation.

Prolonged periods of sitting and stillness can place heavy demands on your posture and increase your risk of potentially serious health problems. These musculoskeletal concerns can happen to anyone, including those who engage in regular exercise. Successful adjustment of your workstation can increase comfort, productivity and your health and safety.

Here are some areas to manage:

  • Shoulder placement: Shoulders are relaxed, elbows bent in approximately a 90 degree angle, and hands above the keyboard.
  • Backrest: Position the lumbar support in lower back to that your spine is comfortably supported.
  • Seat base: Ensure you have your seat base angled, and at an appropriate height that situates yourself with a 90 degree angle at your hip and knees.
  • Leg placement: Ensure your chair is pulled close to the desk and your knees are facing frontward. Sitting closer to the front edge of the desk when using the computer terminal will allow you to attain bilateral upper extremity support and maintain an upright posture. There should be a 2-3 finger gap between your calves and the seat base to ensure appropriate blood flow. You want your feet to be placed flat on the floor or supported by a footrest.
  • Glasses (if applicable): If wearing bifocal glasses, lower your screen to avoid neck tension.
  • Screen placement: Your screen should be at least an arms-length away and at a height and angle, so your neck is in a neutral position when your eyes look straight ahead.
  • Standing desk: If you have a standing desk, ensure you have appropriate footwear (flat soled shoes) and that you stand with an even weight distribution across your two feet). Consider 25-35% of desk bound time standing, spread across the working hour (or as symptoms allow).

Throughout the day, you might find your posture shifts and you lose focus on ensuring appropriate set up. If you catch yourself leaning forward not using your back rest and or being perched on the front of your chair resulting in you not having adequate back and/or upper limb support, be sure to readjust. Having the postural and stretching breaks throughout the day will give you a good opportunity to reset.

Having good ergonomics is vital to ensuring your neck, back and shoulders are positioned safely and to reduce the impacts of poor posture and poor practices which lead to musculoskeletal disorders.

You should regularly conduct workplace ergonomic assessments to ensure the5 hints above are incorporated into your routine and workspace.


Workplace Ergonomic Assessments

Rehab Management are able to conduct on-site and virtual ergonomic assessments and training sessions which promote injury prevention and support safe returns to work following an injury. Rehab Management also offer “Train the Assessor” training so you can equip your workforce with the knowledge on how to set up basic workstations to assist keep your workplace healthy and safe whilst working.  For more information, fill out an enquiry form or call us on 1300 762 989.


Shikdar AA, Al-Kindi MA. Office ergonomics: deficiencies in computer workstation design. International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics. 2007 Jan 1;13(2):215-23.

Related stories

Read More

Beyond Deadlines: Prioritising Employee Wellbeing in a High-Pressure Work Environment

We know that high-pressure work environments can take a toll on employees, leading to stress,...
Read More

Staying Active and Safe in a Work From Home Setup

In many cases, employees can be more productive when working from the comfortable and familiar...
Read More

R U OK? Day

R U Ok? Day falls on Thursday 14 September this year. It’s a reminder to...