Back Pain is a B! Stay Within the Zones of Reach

Woohoo, I’m a Z-list rapper!

I posted a short video on Facebook yesterday detailing the zones of reach when we are working at our workstations and how they affect our bodies. If you missed it, not to worry! This blog post has more tidbits in it, anyway. So happy reading!

When you have low back pain, it's very important to consider the root causes, which include assessing your everyday posture, body mechanics, and ergonomics. All the little movements you do every day cause wear and tear on your spine, muscles, joints, and ligaments that, over the years, can lead to low back pain.

Considering your zones of reach is one way to address those three root causes I mentioned. 

Keep your most-used items in your primary zone of reach

Sit in your chair with you back against the backrest, and glue your elbows to your sides. Lift up your forearms until your hands are at elbow height. Now scoot into your table. Do a windshield wiper motion with your hands. That is your primary zone of reach, where you want to keep your most-used and repetitively-accessed items, like your keyboard and mouse, or pen and paper, and textbook.

But my armrests are in the way…

Most of us actually don’t sit close enough to the table, and the most common prohibiting factor are our armrests. You actually want to sit close enough to the table that more than half of your forearms rest on the table surface. So if your armrests are in the way, get rid of them. They usually have a knob on the bottom of your seat, and once you twist that knob off, you can slide the armrests out.

But my shoulders and back get tired…

If you are sitting correctly with more than half your forearm on the table surface, you shouldn’t feel shoulder and back pain. But if you do, that’s your body’s cue for you to get up and move. You’ve been sitting in that one position for too long!


Keep your regularly to occasionally used items in the secondary zone of reach

Secondary zone of reach is what you can reach while sitting upright with your arm's outstretched. This is where you want to keep the items that you occasionally to regularly use throughout the day, i.e. your printer, phone, document holder.

Turn your body in your seat

Note that even in this zone, your back is still resting on the backrest. If you have neck or upperback pain, turn your body in your seat, and move your feet with you, to face the thing you’re getting at arm’s length away.


Avoid the tertiary zone

Items placed in the tertiary zone require you to lift your back off of your backrest, causing twisting and bending of the back. These can be things in the far corners of your desk, the back of your desk, drawers on the side of your desk, the floor, etc.

Pull items closer to you

To avoid having items in this area, you can pull them closer to you so that they are within the secondary or primary zone.

Put them somewhere else

At the same time, you don’t want your primary and secondary zones to be too cluttered, which can affect concentration during work. So if it's something moveable like a printer, you can take that item and place it on a counter top across the room, forcing you to get up out of your seat to get it.

Consider the items placed in the desk drawers

Do you find yourself needing to access things in your drawers, which cause you to bend sideways, maybe scoot your chair back and crane your neck to look into the drawer? Do you have reams of paper for the printer in that bottom drawer, causing you to bend to one side to lift with one hand, while the other hand holds onto the table edge to pull you back up into sitting? Well. Now that the printer’s on the other side of the room, let’s move the reams of paper over there too! Put it right on the tabletop next to the printer to avoid any other bending and twisting.


Let’s review…

Primary and secondary zones are great. Tertiary zones are a no-no. And as always, be sure to keep your body moving, at least once an hour, and moving correctly!

Check out the original  “Low Back Pain: Zones of Reach” Quick Damon Tip video here: