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I usually have lower back discomfort and mild pain after a long time on the computer programming.

The chair that I am on now is the typical office chair. It's not one of those ergonomics thing but it is a good office chair the is pretty comfortable. So i don't think it is the chair.

Maybe it's my posture? What is the 'right' way to sit while programming? I kindda try to be aware of my posture at the beggining of the session but when you are in the zone, sometimes i swivel in the chair to refer a book. sometimes I roll to a nearby desk to get some stuff etc.

So I might have shifted position and I'm not really aware of my posture.

So what do you do to prevent back ache during long programming sessions?

28 accepted

Contrary to popular opinion, sitting straight up (at 90 degrees) isn't the best position to be in. Apparently, sitting at a 135 degree angle is the best way to eliminate back pain. So next time someone tells you to sit up and look like you're working, just let them know your slouch is orthopedic.

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To reach the keyboard, I slide forward until the desk is nearly hitting my chest. If your chair has armrests, make sure they are low enough to slide under the surface.

I don't know why I've been voted down - I'm merely reporting what has become well known in the industry:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6187080.stm

http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/003919.html

http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/news/20061129/back-pain-eased-by-sitting-back

http://www.ergoweb.com/news/detail.cfm?id=1680

http://continuingeducation.construction.com/article.php?L=95&C=371&P=3

2

Your arms should be parallel to the keyboard. Your knees should be at a right angles. When you look forward, your eyes should hit at at the bottom of the top 25% or so of the screen. Your back should be straight with shoulders relaxed. Do not hunch forward or support your weight with your forearms or wrists. If your chair does not have good lower back support get one of those support pillows. Also, you should get up and walk around for a bit once an hour or so.

Also, I make sure that I have a completely different shaped keyboard and mouse at home so I'm at least typing and using the mouse with a slightly different posture at night.

2

Long post alert.

I used to have alot of back pain while programming and it was mostly due to mean hunching forward. Usually back pain is a result of an excess of stress on the muscles or bad posture.

The first thing i did was to ensure i sat more upright in my chair. This involved me adjusting the placement of my keyboard and mouse so i did not need to lean to it.

I also started using a Trackball Mouse and i know your saying what does that have to do with my back. Well moving my mouse around all the time caused me to lean and get out of the position i had put myself in. It is also so much better on your hand when you get used to it, i also used to have alot of hand pains. Those are now gone.

The next thing i did was to adjust my monitor height. Most ergonomic guides tell you to have your monitor tops at eye level, well that caused me to want to lean forward. So i made my monitors where my eyes were around the middle of the screen, this helped me to not want to lean forward so i would stay level with my monitors.

Next i got a footrest. footrests There are many on that site. By putting my feet on them it is not only very comfortable for my legs and feet, it seems to encourage me to sit up straight.

Last but not least, get up move around and stretch once in awhile. I know it breaks the zone but your sore back will break it even worse. Once your back is sore it will not go away soon, it needs time to recover. So by taking 5 minute breaks every hour or two and doing a little moving and stretching you will give your back the break it needs.

Of course all of those are the things i did and they worked for me, it may or may not work for you.

1

I've been programming for 30 years, and recently I started getting a really sore back. I started paying attention to my work posture, and discovered that I was hunching forward to read the screen. I got some reading glasses, and now the problem is somewhat mitigated - I still don't remember to wear them all the time, except when a back-ache reminds me to.

1

Well, I just started Yoga this evening (sans magic and woo) and already I can see how that might make a huge difference to posture, flexibility and stress levels. Something I meant to do for a while for staving off back ache and RSI.

If nothing else doing some cat stretches in the office may give your colleagues some comic relief!

The other thing you may want to try is sitting on a swiss ball while programming. I haven't tried it myself, but it's supposed to be excellent for "core stability" and lots of people swear by it.

1

Lumbar support.

I didn't realize how important this was because I assumed this just had to do with supporting your lower back, and my back pain was between my shoulder blades. But...

Much back pain comes from slumped shoulders and back in general. When the lower back is supported, it naturally straightens the entire back. Try cramming a small pillow back there just to test and see what I mean.

1

Stretch.

I used to regularly get a sore lower back. The best thing I found (which my physiotherapist prescribed) was to do this:

  1. lie on your stomach on the ground

  2. Use your hands to push your shoulders/head up, like you're doing a press-up, BUT keep your hips locked on the ground. This should arch your back. Keep your neck straight, you don't want your head to be hanging down as you do this. Not too fast, it should take maybe 1 to 2 seconds to arch up.

  3. Once you've arched your back up, DON'T hold it like you would a press up, just go back down again

  4. Do this 10 times.

It works really well. I find if I'm getting a sore back in the middle of the day, I'll stop and do that, and I'll be fine again.

NOTE: THIS IS NOT AN EXCUSE TO HAVE CRAP POSTURE OR A CRAP CHAIR. PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE OTHER PEOPLE.

0

The obvious response to this is to provide a link to WebMD.

It's a common problem that many of us aren't trained to deal with. Repetitive Strain Injury causes a lot of problems for a large percentage of Office workers, resulting in permanent damage for some. If you're looking for some hard facts this extensive review into Musculoskeletal Disorders is pretty good, although very long.

Daniel Auger has some good advice on the subject, but I would consult a Doctor or Occupational/Physical Therapist if it's causing a problem. Your workplace should have some sort of guidelines in place somewhere for RSI and safety in the workplace.

Here's a PDF that details some good posture tips.

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I've tried everything mentioned and in my case anyway, the only thing which "cured" my back pain was serious hiking. I know it sounds counter-intuitive but some experts agree that exercise can actually stimulate tissue repair and strengthen the muscles. Nowadays, I probably get in 30-60 miles/month with elevation gain in the 10's of thousands of feet. I simply don't have these problems anymore even with 18 hour days.

My experience is consistent with this:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=15807449

0

In my experience I need to switch up my posture at least every hour (every 40 minutes is better) if I'm doing a long session. Do some of it from your normal sitting posture, do some standing up, even use an exercise ball or a "Lisa Simpson" chair.

The bottom line is that any single position will result in an RSI.

0

You need to break up a long session by getting up and walking around every hour or so. Set a timer if need be, but get up and use your legs every hour.

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No specific posture will help you with your back pain, what is important is to remember to shift around so go get a chair that can change position.

Besides that, exercise does help a lot, even just a little. I used to take the bus to work previously, and never really got to move my body. This ended up with severe back pain and it never really got away no matter how I positioned myself in front of the screen.

Then I started walking to work, I have about 30 minutes or so single trip, so it ended up in 1 h of very laid back exercise for me. That helped alot, and I noticed when I suddenly got lazy and took the bus that my back pain got back.

Now I joined a gym and I a very seldom any problems with my back.

I know that it could be hard to start doing stuff, but walking 30 minutes a day can help!

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It may not be your posture. It may be your chair.

If the chair you're using is too low, has too much horizontal give, or is just uncomfortable, it can cause you to make small, detrimental postural changes you don't even notice.

Joel wrote about this more at length in Smart and Gets Things Done.

0

Besides having a small cushion for lumbar support, every half hour walk to the other side of the room.