Ergonomics: Back Safety

04 April 2019

Proper ergonomic process is often the best method in preventing back injury. Here are some steps and guidelines for everyday activities:


Lifting can strain your back and lifting badly can lead to injury. Follow these simple tips to avoid damaging your back:

  • Think before lifting. Plan the lift. Can handling aids be used? Where is the load going? Is the load too heavy for one person? Do you need help?
  • Adopt a stable position. Your feet should be apart with one leg slightly forward to maintain balance (alongside the load, if it's on the ground).
  • Be prepared to move your feet during the lift to maintain their stability.
  • Get a good hold. The load should be hugged as close as possible to the body at hip level.
  • At the start of the lift, slight bending of the back, hips and knees is preferable to fully bending the back or fully bending the hips and knees.
  • Don't bend the back any further while lifting. This can happen if the legs begin to straighten too early during the lift, putting pressure on the back.
  • Change directions with your feet, not your back. To avoid a twist, take a step or steps when necessary.
  • When lowering, face the place you have selected and lower the load slowly, bending your knees, never your back and let your legs do the work.


Sitting in the wrong position can cause or aggravate back pain. Try to follow these simple tips to combat poor sitting habits:

  • Sit up with your back straight and your shoulders down and back, elbows relaxed at your sides. Your buttocks should touch the back of your chair.
  • Avoid crossing your legs. This weakens your core muscles and can lead to stiffness in your low back and pelvic area.
  • Your feet should be firmly on the floor, but if it's more comfortable, use a footrest.
  • Your thighs should be at right angles to your body or sloping slightly down.
  • Rest your elbows and arms on your chair's armrests or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
  • When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don't twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.
  • Don't sit in one position for long stretches of time. Get up and move around at least every 45 minutes, however, every 20 minutes is better. Don't forget to stretch.
  • When standing up, move to the front of the seat of your chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist.


Driving can prove a real challenge for backs, especially if you drive for extended periods of time. Here are some tips to help support and protect your back:

  • Sit with your buttocks touching the back of the seat. Adjust the seat so that your leg is slightly bent when you press a pedal to the floor.
  • For maximum back support, adjust seat depth so the distance between the edge of the seat and the back of your knees is about two or three fingers wide.
  • Your shoulders should be down and back against the backrest. They should remain in contact with the backrest when you turn the steering wheel.
  • Adjust the angle of the backrest so that you can easily reach the steering wheel with your arms bent.
  • If you feel your seat isn't giving good support, try a rolled-up towel or lumbar roll in the small curve of your back.
  • Adjust the tilt of the seat so that you can easily press the pedals down to the floor. Your thighs should rest lightly on the seat cushion without pressing on it.
  • The top of the headrest should be aligned with the top of your head. Adjust the angle to allow under an inch of space between your head and the headrest.
  • While driving, keep your chin in and don't grip the wheel too hard. Relax your shoulders and keep your head upright.
  • To reduce the risk of lower back pain, avoid sitting still for lengthy periods and stop regularly to walk and stretch.
  • Try to avoid twisting when getting out of the car. Turn your whole body towards the door; lower your feet to the ground and then stand up.


Computers are probably the biggest problem when it comes to back or neck strain. Ensuring your workspace is set up correctly will help in reducing the potential for harm:

  • Your keyboard should be directly in front of you. A keyboard that is off-centre can cause bad posture.
  • Turn your chair sideways to check that your elbow is level with the spacebar for the correct height.
  • If your keyboard is at the proper height, you should be able to keep your wrists straight while typing. This posture will reduce the risk of injury.
  • A palm or wrist support can help during rest periods from using the keyboard. Place the support under your palms, not your wrists.
  • Your mouse should be close to your keyboard. You should be able to keep your wrist straight, shoulders relaxed and elbows by your side while using it.
  • If you need to look back and forth between your monitor and documents, place your hard copy in such a way so as to avoid twisting your neck.
  • Consider a document holder, which should be placed close to and at the same height as the screen.
  • Place your phone close to you to avoid repetitive reaching.
  • Avoid cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder as this can cause neck pain and stiffness. Consider a headset or speaker phone.

Laptop-use tips

  • Use a separate keyboard and mouse so that the laptop can be put on a stand and the screen opened at eye level.
  • Use your laptop on a stable base where there is support for your arms, and not on your lap.
  • Take regular breaks. If you’re moving, there’s a lot less stress on your muscles and joints.
  • Adopt good sitting posture with lower back support, and ensure that other desk equipment is within reach.
  • Get into good habits before the aching starts. Neck, shoulder and back problems gradually build up over time.

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Tel: +603-7491 9191 / 5566 9191
The Rehabilitation Medicine Department is located on the Ground Floor, Tower A of the hospital.