Did you know? The American Council on Exercise reports that Americans spend $50 million per year trying to treat back pain. Of the millions of Americans suffering from back pain, many are so disabled by it that they are unable to work at all. Back pain is the most common reason for missed work and the second most common reason for adult doctor’s visits, according to the American Chiropractic Association.
Many individuals sit for hours at their desk or maintain poor posture at work. But, often times, back pain can be effectively treated and even prevented with simple changes to posture and safe lifting techniques. Most importantly, staying mindful of these back care tips (especially while sitting at a desk for long periods of time!) can help to reverse bad habits and ward off pain before it begins:
- It’s all about the ergonomics. Poor posture can lead to muscle imbalances and ligament changes that cause pain, particularly in the back. Unlike most injuries, poor posture affects the back slowly over a period of time. By the time back pain begins, the bad posture that caused it has already become a habit. One great option to encourage good posture at the office is to set up an ergonomically correct workstation. Consult this Mayo Clinic guide to office ergonomics to achieve an optimal desk setup.
- Stretch. Repeat. Back muscles are supported by core muscles. Strengthening your core will naturally support your back throughout the day. Some options include:
- Try core strengthening exercises several times throughout the week
- Set a timer to remind you to get up every one to two hours for a five-minute break
- Commit to stretching each day, focusing on the hamstrings, core and neck
- Avoid injury with proper lifting and carrying techniques. Chronic back pain often begins with an injury. If your job involves lifting or carrying heavy objects, be sure you are doing it in a safe manner. Always separate your feet, squat low to the ground and lift using your legs. Do not bend at the waist and attempt to use your back to lift. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons provides a helpful guide for lifting and carrying safely. One option could be to print this guide and post it near your workstation for easy reference.
Exercise, a healthy diet and weight loss are also important components of back pain recovery and prevention. If your back pain persists, it is important to consult a doctor for an individualized recovery plan.
Want other health tips? Check out our article on ideas for eating healthier at work.