Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

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Are your work desk and chair customized to your body? A healthy work environment can keep you comfortable and protect you from injuries. Good ergonomics creates a work environment that fits your body, allowing you to keep up with the demands of your job.

Healthy Workplace Ergonomics

Most pain and injury from work conditions are caused by repetitive tasks and not enough varied movement throughout the day. These 5 strategies can help you prevent injury and discomfort in your workplace:

  • Take short breaks filled with healthy movement.
  • Make sure you work with good posture to avoid back pain.
  • Adjust your workspace for comfort and injury prevention.
  • Identify causes of discomfort and find possible solutions.
  • Focus on your health beyond the workplace. This can help keep you pain-free, more focused, and more productive.

Break, Stretch, and Move

Most ergonomic discomforts result from doing the same thing in the same position for too long. So taking short breaks, stretching, changing positions, and moving around even a little throughout the day can help alleviate most problems.

Get up and go!

Avoid sitting still for too long by taking short movement breaks and changing positions frequently. Moving around helps muscles relax and recover from static positions and increases blood flow. Ideally, move around at least every 20 to 30 minutes.

  • Get a drink of water.
  • Stand up and go to the bathroom.
  • Walk 1 flight of stairs.
  • Walk over to a coworker instead of calling or e-mailing.
  • Take a lap down the hallway.
  • Take stretch breaks.
  • Change positions as often as possible. Lower or raise your chair, change the tilt or adjust the armrests.
  • Do a different task for a few minutes.
  • Stand up while talking on the phone.
  • Use a headset or speaker phone (if the environment is appropriate) so you can move around while talking on the phone.
Remember to stretch

There are many simple stretches you can do at your desk to loosen up key muscles. Gently twisting from one side to another in your chair stretches lower back muscles. Clasping your hands and stretching arms in front and in back provides an arm and shoulder stretch. Circling your hands in both directions loosens up tired wrists. These everyday stretches can help prevent pain or discomfort. Take deep breaths during each of these stretches.

  • Neck stretch and gentle circles: Lower one ear toward your shoulder, to stretch the opposite side of your neck. Repeat on the other side. Lower your chin to your chest, using one hand to gently pull your head down to increase the stretch on the back of your neck. Gently circle your head around in one direction, then the other.
  • Wrist circles: Circle your hands around in small circles while bending at the wrists.
  • Torso twist: While seated, reach one hand over the top and behind your chair, grabbing the top or side of the chair back. Reach the other hand across your front and grab the side of the chair seat. Slowly look behind you and twist at the waist to stretch your back. Repeat for the other side.
  • Hamstring stretch: Standing, bend one leg into a partial squat position. Outstretch the other foot several feet in front of you with your heel on the floor. Lean down over the outstretched leg to get a stretch on the back of your leg and behind your knee. Switch legs.
  • Back stretch: Sit in a chair with your legs apart. Lean down between your legs, letting your head fall and your arms hang. Lean far enough to feel a stretch in your back. Take a few deep breaths. Slowly raise yourself back up to the seated position. 
  • Arm circles and windmills: Find a place with plenty of room around you. Circle both arms forward, then backward. Alternate arms for a slight torso twist and the windmill effect.
  • Shoulder rolls: Slowly roll your shoulders forwards and then reverse to go backwards.
  • Shoulder stretches: Seated or standing, clasp your hands together, interlacing your fingers with palms facing outward. Stretch your arms in front of you. Reach as far as you can to get a good stretch in your shoulders. Clasp your hands behind your back and reach back with your palms facing inward. Stretch keeping your shoulders down and back.
  • Quadriceps stretches: Standing on one leg, lift the other leg behind you, grabbing your foot or ankle. If you have trouble keeping your balance, try putting your hand on your ear or staring at one space on the wall. Your knees should be next to each other, facing forward. Pull your foot up toward your buttocks until you feel a stretch in the front of your thigh. Repeat for your other leg.
  • Hip stretch: Stand up and put one foot up onto a stable chair, sturdy box, or low table placed about 2 or 3 feet away. Gently lower yourself down into a lunge position to feel a stretch in the front of your hip. Repeat for the other side.
Additional References:

Practice Good Posture

Most ergonomic injuries involve the back. Good posture can do a lot to improve or prevent back pain and injury.

  • When standing, you should be able to draw a straight line from your ear, tip of the shoulder, middle of the hip, back of your knee, and front of your ankle. Keep your shoulders relaxed and back without pushing your chest forward.
  • When seated, your ear, shoulder, and hip should still be aligned. You should avoid curving your lower back. Your "sit" bones at the bottom of your pelvis and the backs of your legs should be flat on the seat. Maintain and support the natural arch in your lower back using a lumbar support pillow, couch pillow, or rolled towel.
  • When you bend down, bend slightly at the knees and hinge forward at the hips without bending at the waist.

Strategies for Desk Jobs

Sitting at a computer has become a daily activity for most of us, whether we do it for work or pleasure. Not surprisingly, computer-related injuries are more common than ever. If you are going to sit in one position for hours at a time, make sure you are doing it right! Use good workstation strategies to help reduce your risk of injury:


  • Place your mouse next to the computer keyboard, close to the front of the desk.

Wrist position

  • Make sure that your wrists are straight and parallel to the floor.
  • Avoid flexing your wrists upward or bending them downwards.

Keyboard position

  • Put your keyboard at the same height as your elbows.
  • Make sure your keyboard is close enough that you do not need to reach out to touch the keys.


  • Bend your elbows to comfortably reach the keyboard. Your elbows should naturally bend to form an angle slightly wider than 90° (a bit wider than an L).


  • Take vision breaks every 30 minutes or so.
  • Briefly look at something other than the computer screen as often as possible.


  • Put your phone within easy reach.
  • Use a headset or speaker phone for long conversations.
  • Avoid bending your neck between your shoulder and ear while talking and multitasking.


  • Minimize glare by tilting the computer screen or putting a glare protection on your screen.
  • Put the monitor directly in front of you so that your gaze is straight forward.
  • Avoid tilting your chin up or downwards.


  • Use the chair back, a back support, or a pillow to support the inward curve of your lower back.
  • Adjust your seat height so your hips are just slightly higher than your bent knees.
  • Make sure there is 1 inch between the edge of the seat and the inside of your bent knees.
  • Adjust your armrests so that your arms sit comfortably at your sides with your shoulders relaxed.

Feet and legs

  • Sit with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Use a footrest if you elevate your chair.
  • Avoid crossing your legs.

Ease Your Pain

Below is a list of ergonomic-related symptoms, possible causes, and some solutions you can try.

Possible cause
Solutions to try

Neckache on one side

  • Habit of tilting your neck to one side
  • Turning your head to one side
  • Incorrect workstation setup
  • Become aware of how your neck feels when you tilt it.
  • Check your position frequently and adjust so you are looking forward.
  • Put your computer screen or work directly in front of you.
  • Take short breaks to gently stretch your neck.
Tension in your shoulders      
  • Habit of tense or raised shoulders.
  • Shoulders are too far apart.
  • Incorrect workstation setup.
  • Lower the work surface.
  • Lower the armrests.
  • Bring armrests in closer.
  • Try stress reduction and relaxation exercises.
  • Do shoulder rolls and arm circles several times daily.
Neck pain
  • Neck is regularly positioned too far forward (downward) or too far back.
  • Raise or lower your computer screen or work surface so your neck is in neutral position while looking forward.
  • Do gentle neck stretches several times daily.
Tingling or weakness in your fingers or hand
  • Too much pressure on the median nerve in your wrist
  • Make sure your wrists are straight (not bent up or down or twisted).
  • Adjust your workspace if needed.
  • Take frequent breaks.
  • Try a supportive wrist band and ice.
Elbow pain or fatigue
  • Elbow bent for long periods of time
  • Raise your chair periodically to increase the angle of your elbow.
  • Avoid holding the phone to your ear for long periods of time. Use a headset or a speaker phone instead.
  • Do arm stretches several times a day.
Wrist pain or discomfort
  • Improper wrist position
  • Lack of wrist support
  • Long periods of time keyboarding
  • Constant use of computer mouse
  • Try using a soft wrist rest in front of the computer.
  • Check wrist position and adjust so it is straightened frequently.
  • If you use a keyboard, consider trying a keyboard with a split or other ergonomic design.
  • Take breaks and vary work as much as possible.
  • Learn keyboard shortcut commands to substitute mouse commands.
  • Switch hands using the mouse frequently.
General hand, wrist and forearm fatigue
  • Forceful typing
  • Repeated forceful motions using the hands and arms
  • Constant reaching for things placed out of reach
  • Try a special keyboard requiring a lighter touch.
  • Use electric office tools often, like staplers or 3-hole punches, to minimize repeated forceful motions.
  • Make sure needed items are within easy reach.
Back pain
  • Chair does not "fit" your body.
  • Sitting too long.
  • Make yourself stand up as often as possible to give your back a break. Try placing a few office items out of reach, so you have to get up to get them.
  • Check seated position frequently to be sure you are sitting correctly. The bones at the bottom of your pelvis and the backs of your legs should be touching the seat, and your lower back should be straight (not arched or curved).
Lower back pain
  • Lack of support
  • Sitting too long
  • Use a lumbar support cushion or pillow placed at the low back for support.
  • Check seated position frequently to be sure you are sitting correctly. The bones at the bottom of your pelvis and the backs of the legs should be touching the seat, and your lower back should be straight (not arched or curved).
  • Take breaks to stand or walk at least once per hour.
Discomfort in backs of the thighs or low back
  • Feet may not be supported.
  • Make sure feet are flat on the floor.
  • Try a footrest to raise feet up.
Eye strain
  • Too much glare on computer screen from outdoor or other light
  • Too much lighting in work area
  • Staring at computer screen for lengthy periods of time
  • Lower the computer monitor so the top of the computer screen is at eye level.
  • Consider getting computer glasses from your optometrist. These glasses are made specifically for the distance from your eyes to the monitor.
  • Adjust or decrease task lighting.
  • Close blinds or curtains.
  • Put overhead lights on dimmer switches and turn off if possible.
  • Move your computer to a different spot to minimize lighting on the screen.
  • Look away from computer screen every 20 minutes. Try to focus on things at different distances before returning your eyes to the screen.
  • Consciously make yourself blink as often as possible.

Make Health a Habit

Practicing good health every day has a noticeable impact on how often we get injured and how fast we recover.

  •  Exercise. Exercising regularly improves strength, agility, and flexibility, all of which can reduce your risk of injury.
  • Get your daily 5 and your nightly 8. Eating a balanced diet, including at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and getting enough sleep (6-8 hours) will help keep you healthy and may improve your ability to recover if injured.
  • Be tobacco-free. In addition to being the best thing you can do for your overall health, not smoking has been shown in some studies to reduce the risk of some aches and pains, including back pain.
  • Strive for a healthy weight. Being overweight can put you at greater risk of developing other health problems, including musculoskeletal problems, which can cause pain and discomfort in your workplace.

If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.

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