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3 Back Stretches for Desk Workers

3 Back Stretches for Desk Workers

Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)

Ergonomics Tips: Back Stretches for Desk Workers

31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time. … Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010. Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work.” – GBD 2010

While every office admin should consult with an ergonomics consultant to ensure the workstation is properly set up, prolonged sitting at your desk may still lead to workplace injury if you do not properly care for your body.

Beyond making sure to take breaks by getting up and moving, try these 3 back stretches our ergonomics experts have collected from the CCOHS.

1. Middle-Upper Back Stretch

Sore back from hunching over a computer screen? Hold your left arm with your right hand, right above the elbow and gently push your elbow toward your right shoulder. Hold this stretch for 5 seconds and repeat with the right arm.

Middle Upper Back Stretch

2. Back/Side Stretch

This next stretch is great for your back and side aches: Interlock your fingers and lift your arms over your head, be sure to keep your elbows straight and slowly lean the left and then to the right. In a similar way, you can also bring your arms in front of your body, or behind to stretch the shoulder blades and chest.

Back and Side Stretch

3. Back Curl

A back curl stretch will stretch your mid back as well as your legs. To do this stretch, grasp your shin, lift your leg off the floor and bend forward (curling your back), reaching your nose to your knee. Repeat with the other leg.

Back Curl Stretch

In Conclusion

Be sure to print these out and post them near your workstation for yourself or your co-workers. Staying proactive by stretching at your workstation is a great way to avoid workplace injury. If you are in serious pain, be sure to consult with your doctor to see if it is serious. And for more tips check out our blog featuring advice from our ergonomics experts.

For an ergonomics consultation, visit or Contact Us for more detailed information.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for more ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California (Arcata), Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, Kent, and Portland.

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Work in comfort while travelling.

ergonomics while flying
Travelling for work is stressful enough without tweaking your back, hurting your shoulder, or otherwise injuring yourself. Solutions Northwest has put together some tips to travel in comfort, while remaining productive.

The Luggage

Keep it light weight. Pick it up before buying to check how heavy it is. Besides the usual places to shop for luggage, check outdoor stores such as REI. Outdoor stores often have lighter weight options available.

Buy the smallest size luggage you can reasonably pack your things in. Carefully plan exactly what you will need for your trip and only bring the essentials. If your bag is small enough, like the example in the first picture, you can place your bag under the airplane seat in front of you, therefore avoiding having to lift it into an overhead bin or off of a baggage claim belt.

Pay attention to good lifting technique when you lift your luggage onto the airport security belt, into the overhead bin, or off the baggage claim belt. Remember to bend with your knees, not your back. Good lifting techniques are covered in our previous post on that subject.

Pay attention to the weight of backpacks and shoulder bags. If the weight is more than 20% of your body weight, it is not safe to carry. You can check the weight of a bag on a bathroom scale. Backpack shoulder straps should be padded and be carried on both shoulders. Bags with one shoulder strap are not the best option because of the strain they cause on one side of the body. If you find yourself in a situation where you must carry a bag with one shoulder strap, carry it in front of you with both arms holding it or switch the bag from side to side periodically so one side of your body does not have to handle the weight for a prolonged period of time

The Plane Ride

There may be a lucky few people in the world for whom airline seats are designed to fit. For the rest of us, we’ve got a few ergonomics tips for the plane ride.

Adjust your seat. If the headrest on the seat is adjustable, adjust it to the correct height for your head. If the seat looks like the headrest is a separate piece, try pulling the headrest up or pushing it down because there is a good chance it will move.

Armrests on planes are notorious for being fought over. They are also usually rock hard. This causes compression of the forearm which is an ergonomics risk factor. To combat this, try to put something soft on top of them. A thick scarf or jacket can work well for this.

If you are tall, try to sit in the bulkhead or emergency exit seats in order to have a little more leg room. Check the seats a day before your flight to see if any of these seats have been released if they weren’t available when you first bought your ticket.

Bring your own gear. For lumbar support, it’s a good idea to bring a self-inflating backrest which can easily become completely flat for packing.

A travel footrest is a good thing to use if you have legs that don’t touch the floor when sitting in an airline seat, have varicose veins, or are pregnant. Legs hanging off the edge of a seat without any support causes leg compression which is an ergonomics risk factor.

The Laptop

Consider using a lightweight foldable laptop riser when working on the plane. Risers will prevent laptop hunch.

Once you get to your hotel, using the laptop riser plus a wireless keyboard and mouse is a good idea.

When sitting in a hotel using a laptop, the desk may be too high for you. If it is, raise your chair so that your elbows are .5″-1″ above the work surface. If your feet don’t touch the ground try to find something to put under them.


Hopefully, these ergonomics tips gave you some ideas on how to remain productive while travelling, without it becoming a pain. For more ergonomics tips, subscribe to our monthly newsletter or contact one of our experts at

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Beware of Fancy Mesh Back Ergonomic Conference Room Chairs

Beware of Fancy Mesh Back Ergonomic Conference Room Chairs
By Celeste McLaughlin,
Ergonomics Manager

The chair which started the mesh trend- Herman Miller Aeron

If you are going to update your conference room and are looking for ergonomic mesh back chairs, proceed with caution. At first glance, it is difficult to see any problem with this scenario. Who doesn’t like stylish things, right?

That is exactly the problem. People do like stylish things. They like them a lot. If your employees have upholstered chairs and you put mesh back chairs in the conference room, you will face some unexpected difficulties.

You will notice there are fewer and fewer mesh back chairs in your conference room as the days go by. You will wonder where your new chairs have rolled off to. There may even be an influx of old chairs which mysteriously appear in the conference room over time. It is all very strange. It’s like the chairs have a migratory pattern all of their own. At the same time, employee requests for mesh back chairs will start coming in. Reasons given will be medical, seniority, someone else in the department has one, etc.

If employees perceive that the conference room chairs are fancier than their own, your new conference chairs will migrate to other areas of the building. I’ve even seen employees go so far as to put conference room chairs under blankets in their offices to disguise them.

There are ways to avoid all this drama. You could give employees a way to obtain their own mesh back chairs before or at the same time you obtain the mesh back conference room chairs. If you want to stick with upholstered chairs for your employees, then I would strongly recommend you buy upholstered chairs for your conference room as well.

Ergonomic chair consultation is something we specialize in. We can recommend chair options for employees and for conference rooms. We can work with your preferred vendors and/or find new vendors. We can work with interior designers to identify ergonomic options which fit into design plans. We can even do all of this remotely if you are not located near us. Contact and we’ll be happy to help.




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