The Office Worker With Mid-back Pain

Tim recently started coming to Tidewater. He was experiencing some upper back pain that started after he spent a lot of time in his home office finishing a work project. He had a similar pain a few years ago and went to a chiropractor at that time to get some relief. He was told that the pain he was experiencing was from one of his ribs and his previous chiropractor was able to help him recover. He suspected the rib might be involved this time as well. Tim was worried that he was going to fall behind in work if he was unable to relieve some of his pain.


After reviewing his symptoms and past medical history, Dr. Garcia performed an exam to make sure there were no underlying conditions and help pinpoint the structures that were causing him pain. Tim was experiencing sharp pain on the right side of his upper middle back. He described the feeling “ like having a screwdriver stabbed into his upper back”. He had also noticed that the pain got worse anytime he tried to take a deep breath. His pain was not any worse at night and the pain didn't wake him up from sleeping. He also stated that there was no traumatic event such as a car accident or a fall onto his back.

Dr. Garcia asked Tim about his home office, since that was about when he started to feel the pain. Tim did have a desk at home, but he confessed that he did most of his work sitting on his couch with his laptop in his lap. When he was at his desk, he noticed that his table was too low and it seemed harder to type and see the screen without slouching over. He also noticed that he would get super focused on his work and would sit for several hours at a time without getting up.


Dr. Garcia was able to determine that Tim’s pain was in fact coming from one of his ribs on the right side. Dr. Garcia reviewed the various treatment options Tim could pursue and Tim decided to continue with chiropractic care. Dr. Garcia's treatment plan included adjusting the rib and thoracic spine, applying kinesio tape to the area to help with blood flow and promote healing in that area, and to make Tim’s home office more ergonomically functional.


After Tim’s first visit, his pain was greatly reduced. He still experienced some soreness in the area, but noticed that he was able to take a deep breath without feeling the sharp pain he was experiencing before. He was asked to return in one week for a follow up visit and to test out the new ergonomic changes we suggested he make to his home office. Some of those changes included:

  • 90/90/90/ chair placement ( 90 degrees at elbows, hips, and knees)

  • Getting a chair with a lumbar support

  • Using a detached or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse

  • Placing the screen of his laptop at eye level

  • Taking breaks every 45 minutes (set a timer to remind yourself)

At his follow up visit, Tim states that his rib pain had resolved and the changes to his desk had made him more productive. He noticed that by taking breaks every hour, he was able to regroup his thoughts and prioritize his work more effectively. Because Tim spends so much time sitting at his desk, he still comes to the office once a month for maintenance care of his middle and lower back.


For more tips on how to set up your work desk or home office, check out this video from Dr. Pierce with some helpful techniques to make your desk the best it can be.


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