6 Tips to Prevent Lower Back Pain at Work
You may be surprised to know that the second most common reason adults visit a physician is for back pain. In addition to sick leave, nearly $90 billion is spent on the diagnosis and management of lower back pain annually in the US. The spine is arguably one of your most precious assets, helping to keep you upright and providing the framework for a stable body in motion and at rest. Keeping the spine in good working order should be a priority for everyone, especially when at work, where most people spend a good portion of their days.
Whether your job is a labor intensive or a desk job, both have their own risks. Thankfully, there are tips available to keep your back and core strong, and keep you feeling your best.
1: A Body in Motion Stays in Motion
For most people with a desk job, other than bathroom breaks and lunchtime, they don’t get up regularly. A whole day can pass by before you realize you’ve spent 7 hours sitting. It’s not feasible to be away from the desk for hours at a time, but depending on the office building, it may be possible to go for short walks and stretch your legs every hour for a few minutes. Some have found it useful to stand every time they receive a phone call, or even set a timer on their computer to get up and walk around at regular intervals. It may take some trial and error, but in the long run it can have a huge impact on your lower back.
2. Try a Standing Desk
Many offices have seen a new wave in design and a standing desk is just as easy to find as a regular one. The benefits of a standing desk include taking the heat off your lower back and pelvis and allowing the spine to decompress. Many desks now come with the option of standing to sitting conversion. Standing all day can have its own complications, such as sore feet. A good guideline to follow when it comes to standing desks are to stand change positions from sitting to standing every 30 minutes to reduce lower back fatigue. The back and forth not only gives both your back and feet a break, but it can help to keep you mentally alert and keep your circulation flowing.
3. Maintain Good Posture
Some of the most common causes of back pain are related to bad postures, such as slouching forward while working at a desk. Investing in a chair with good lumbar support or having a lumbar support pillow can help adjust the spine properly while sitting. One of the best ways to support good posture at work is typically done outside of work. Exercise such as Pilates focuses on a strong core. Your core, which includes your back, torso, abdomen, pelvis and, diaphragm are all targeted in Pilates exercises. Studies have shown that Pilates performed regularly for as little as 20 minutes, two to three times a week, can have a huge impact on training your core to maintain good posture, and relieving back pain.
4. It’s All About Angles
You may have a good desk and a good chair, but if the height isn’t right, your angles are all off. Adjust your chair so that your feet sit flat on the floor and your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Some people prefer having a foot prop to rest their feet upon. When it comes to armrests, remember your arms and elbows should be at a 90-degree angle too. This prevents your shoulders from creeping up and keeps your arms and hands in an ergonomic position. Take note of your computer screen as well. It should be at least 20 inches away from your face or at arm’s length. Aim for your screen height to be slightly below eye level, with your eyes looking slightly downward when viewing the middle of the monitor. The idea is to avoid tilting your neck either up or down. These small adjustments and attention to angles can go a long way for your eyes, neck and, back.
5. Let Your Legs Be the Star
When it comes to lifting, let your legs be the star. Most everyone knows to lift with your legs, and this is usually conscientiously done with heavy loads. But what about lifting light things, or simply bending over to pick up a pen? Again, let the legs be the star. Most people tweak their backs by doing little everyday things the wrong way. For instance, keeping the legs straight while bending over causes the lower back to compress and puts unnecessary pressure on lumbar discs. Instead, bend the knees, keep the back straight and let your hips act as a hinge. This position will protect your back in the long run and will keep your hamstrings flexible.
6. Pack a Healthy Lunch and Avoid Smoking
You may wonder what these have to do with preventing back pain. Health takes into account all aspects of life, and a good diet plays a big role. A diet high in vegetables increases the number of nutrients and antioxidants in your bloodstream and can reduce inflammation. A well-balanced diet can prevent obesity that can add to back pain and immobility. Smoking is known to constrict blood vessels and decrease the amount of circulation to all parts of the body, including the lower back. If you already have back pain, decreased circulation can slow healing time. Decreasing inflammation and improving circulation may start at the cellular level, but your back will thank you, not to mention the rest of your body.
Work doesn’t have to be a pain, and with these tips, it certainly won’t be for your back. If you are looking to prevent back pain or heal a previous lower back injury, Hershey Rehabilitation is here to help. Our trained staff can assess your individual issues and provide appropriate physical therapy that can get and keep your back strong and resilient.