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Whether daily life includes sitting all day at the office or running around chasing after kids, many people suffer from low back pain and poor posture.
NBC Medical Contributor Dr. Natalie Azar stopped by the show on Thursday with tips to combat pain in the neck, back and shoulders caused by working at a computer all day.
Proper Desk Set Up
- Position your monitor level with your eyes: Dr. Azar said looking up or down, it can put a strain on your neck. She also indicated that any bifocal wearers might need to lower the monitor 1 to 2 inches.
- Move the monitor closer closer or farther away: Dr. Azar said you should be able to easily read the screen without squinting or leaning forward. She recommended changing the font size if you have to!
- Link to a larger monitor: If you're using a laptop, this can also help eliminate strain.
- Position your keyboard and mouse so that your forearms are parallel to the floor: She said to make sure your wrists are not pointing up or down.
- Keep your mouse close: Setting up your desk so that the things you use most frequently, like a mouse, stapler or telephone, are close to your body will minimize reaching.
- Use a headset with your phone: Dr. Azar said this can help prevent shoulders from raising to hold the phone and type at the same time.
Proper Chair Set Up
- The Seat: Your back should be able to comfortably rest against the back of your chair. Look for a seat that is curved where your rear end would be, because you need to support the entire spine.
- The Lower Back: Look for a curve where the lumbar spine region (or small of your back) would rest. This gives additional support.
- The Upper Back: The top of your chair should also be curved. If you sit back in your chair, the curve will make sure you don't hyper-extend your back. Leaning back slightly is a better position than leaning forward.
- Your Feet: Your feet should be flat on the floor. If you need to, get a stool or foot rest to put your feet on. They should not dangle above the floor.
- Your Knees: Maintain a distance of a few inches between the back of your knees and the chair.
- The Armrests: If your chair has armrests, they should allow your shoulders to stay relaxed. If they are too high, they may cause your shoulders to shrug upwards.
- Additional Support: If you are sitting in a straight-backed chair, get a lumbar pillow and seat cushion to help you sit in the proper position.
Proper Standing Desk Posture
- Keep your chin level with the ground, shoulders back and stomach in. Let your arms fall naturally at your side.
- Place your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your lower back in line.
- Keep your weight on the balls of your feet but don't lean forward onto your tiptoes. When you rest on the heels of your feet, the natural tendency will be to slouch, so try to avoid that instinct.
Dr. Azar also discussed products that might help maintain proper posture and alleviate back pain. If you struggle with chronic back pain, it's recommended that you consult with your own doctor. TODAY does not endorse these products.
Upright Go Smart Wearable Posture Trainer, $80, Amazon
While Dr. Azar noted that posture trainers like the Upright Go are new and there hasn't been any testing done on their efficacy, she said anything that can help cue you and remind you to correct your posture and take breaks can be helpful.
Popsockets Phone Grip, $10, Popsockets
Popsockets or products like them that make handling phones easier can also be useful. Dr. Azar said that holding phones up at eye level will reduce strain on the neck and shoulders and help limit hunching.
Hands-Free Telephone Headset, $16, Amazon
Dr. Azar mentioned headsets can be useful to help avoid scrunching your shoulder to hold the phone and type at the same time. This headset is Amazon's best-seller in the headset category, but there are many others that would be just as effective.
LoveHome Memory Foam Lumbar Support Back Cushion, $26, Amazon
If you're sitting in a straight-backed chair, Dr. Azar recommended looking into lumbar support pillows and seat cushions to help maintain proper posture. This pillow is the best-seller for lumbar support on Amazon and has over 2,300 positive customer reviews.
More expert recommendations for alleviating back pain
If you're looking for products that can help alleviate some of the back pain or neck pain you've been experiencing, TODAY reached out to other experts including doctors and personal trainers for more recommendations. As with the products above, it's recommended that you speak with your physician if you are dealing with chronic back pain.
Aoou Adjustable Laptop Stand Standing Desk, $35, Amazon
“Sitting tightens our hips, weakens our lower back and core, and keeps us stuck in the same position for hours on end," said Lauren Ohayon, a yoga and Pilates instructor in Miami, Florida, who founded the “Restore Your Core” online program. She recommended getting an adjustable standing laptop desk to help you move more throughout the work day. They make it easy to go from sitting to standing in a variety of positions.
Rad Roller Myofascial Massage Tools, $25, Amazon
If you have no option but to sit down all day, Amanda Edell — a personal trainer in New York City who founded the Body by Amanda program — recommended rolling out your muscles with the Rad roller to increase blood flow.
“It comfortably fits between the shoulder blades to relieve tension in the upper and lower back and helps to release movement in the rib cage," Edell said. Plus, it’s small enough to easily fit into your desk and not distract anyone.
Champion Sports Official Lacrosse Balls, $8, Amazon
If you’re looking for an even easier way to roll your muscles, Dr. Mark Baker, a Chicago-based chiropractor and owner of Elite Healthcare, recommended a simple lacrosse ball. “I recommend it for almost every one of my patients," Baker said. "It’s portable, travels well and is incredibly good for getting into the small trigger points.”
Innova Advanced Heat Massage and Therapeutic Inversion Table, $135, Amazon
To relieve pain all over instead of just in one problem area, Dr. Mark Liponis, the chief medical officer at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, recommended an inversion table that provides massage. While it may be expensive for some, he said it could be worth it for managing a chronic pain issue. "Over time can help relieve chronic neck and back pain,” Liponis added.
Note: The table does require the user to be inverted 30 or 45 degrees.
ComforTrac Deluxe Cervical Traction Kit, $349, Amazon
Dr. Liponis suggested asking your doctor about this cervical traction device to help mange back and neck pain at home. “Often neck pain actually originates from the low back," Liponis said. "But, a person isn’t aware until their neck is stiff. The traction device offers a way for people to safely regain mobility.”
Prosource Flex Foam Rollers, $8-$18, Walmart
Also available at Amazon.
“When tight, our calves and hamstrings pull on our pelvis, taking it out of alignment and leaving our lower back in a lot of pain and our upper back hunched,” Ohayon said. She advises all of her clients to regularly stretch and strengthen the calves and hamstrings with a half-round roller.
Upright Go Smart Wearable Posture Trainer, $80, Amazon
“Good posture requires attention and attentiveness,” Liponis said. He recommends this smart device that provides cues and alerts via an app to to voluntarily improve your posture. Little adjustments made throughout the day can impact the alignment of your body.
If you are looking for more, fret not - below are Amazon's best selling back pain relief products. Keep in mind these were not specifically recommended by the doctor we spoke to and anyone should seek medical advice before perusing a treatment of any kind!
Penetrex Pain Relief Cream, $19 (originally $30), Amazon
This cream has a cult following with over 24,000 customer reviews on Amazon. The company recommends applying the treatment anywhere you feel pain or discomfort.
Biofreeze Pain relief gel, $10, Amazon
This topical relief gel is also a popular pain relief treatment. The company recommends massaging the gel onto large muscle areas and notes that best results typically are found from a combination of using the gel and treatment from a hands-on healthcare professional.
Nayoya Back and Neck Pain Relief - Acupuncture Mat and Pillow Set, $40, Amazon
Acupressure mats like these can help relieve neck and back pain when laid on for around 20 minutes a day.
Sunbeam king-size heating pad with ultra-heat technology, $14, Amazon
This heating pad was designed with UltraHeat technology, which helps increase blood flow to sore areas according to the company.