Back Pain at Work Tips and Exercises
Back pain in your workplace can make it hard to concentrate on your job, whether it would be general stiffness or dull and annoying pain. Depending on the type of work, some jobs may place a substantial amount of stress on your back. These may include occupations such as nursing, construction and factory work. Although even routine office work can worsen back pain, usually due to incorrect prolonged postures. It is important to take care of your body, as your body will usually let you know when you are not. You can avoid back pain and other injuries by understanding what causes them and focusing on prevention.
What causes back injuries?
Some of the causes of back pain may still be unknown, we can generally be sure that most back problems are the result of a combination of factors. You can control some factors, such as weight, fitness and flexibility, by changing your lifestyle. Some factors such as family history, however, aren’t preventable. Certain work-related factors can be a little bit trickier as you may or may not be able to modify to prevent injury, these may include:
• Force. Exerting too much force on your back may cause injury. If your job is physical in nature, you might face injury if you frequently lift or move heavy objects.
• Repetition. Repetition refers to the number of times you perform a certain movement. Overly repetitious tasks can lead to muscle fatigue or injury, particularly if they involve stretching to the limit of your range of motion or awkward body positioning.
• Posture. Posture refers to your position when sitting, standing or performing a task. If, for instance, you spend most of your time in front of a computer, you may experience occasional aches and pains from sitting still for extended periods. On average, your body can tolerate being in one position for about 20 minutes before you feel the need to adjust.
• Stress. Pressures at work or at home can increase your stress level and lead to muscle tension and tightness, which may in turn lead to back pain.
How to avoid back injuries:
Your best bet in preventing back pain and injury is to be as fit as you can be and take steps to make your work and your working environment as safe as possible.
Even if you move around a lot on your job or your job requires physical exertion, you still need to exercise. Regular activity is your best bet in maintaining a healthy back. First of all, you’ll keep your weight in check, and carrying around a healthy weight for your body’s frame minimises stress on your back. You can do specific strengthening and stretching exercises that target your back muscles. Strong and flexible muscles will help keep your back in shape.
Pay attention to posture
Poor posture stresses your back. When you slouch or stand with a swaybacked position, you exaggerate your back’s natural curves. Such posture can lead to muscle fatigue and injury. In contrast, good posture relaxes your muscles and requires minimal effort to balance your body.
• Standing posture. If you stand for long periods, try and keep your weight evenly balanced over both feet and stand tall. Try and avoid standing in the one position for an extended period of time and to move around if possible. If you do have a painful back you might find putting one foot on a low box or stool will help. Also if you standing during the day with your work, try and have your working surface at a comfortable height.
• Sitting posture. To promote comfort and good posture while sitting, choose a chair that supports your back. Adjust the chair so that your feet stay flat on the floor. If the chair doesn’t support your lower back’s curve, place a rolled towel or small pillow behind your lower back. Remove bulky objects, such as a wallet, from your back pockets when sitting because they can disrupt balance in your lower back.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to lift and carry a load. Some key tips for lifting the right way include letting your legs do the work, keeping objects close to your body and recruiting help if a load is too heavy.
Adjust your work space
Look at the setup of your office or work area. Think about how you could modify repetitive job tasks to reduce physical demands. Remember that you’re trying to decrease force and repetition and maintain healthy, safe postures. For instance, you might use lifting devices or adjustable equipment to help you lift loads. If you’re on the phone most of the day, try a headset. Avoid cradling the phone between your shoulder and ear to free up your hands for yet another task. If you work at a computer, make sure that the monitor is at eye level and centred directly in front of you.Try not to bring your head closer to the screen, as this can cause a lot of problems with your neck and lead to headaches. So to avoid this position try to bring your head back, so that it is centred over your body by tucking your chin back. Make sure that your keyboard is at elbow level and that you keep your elbows fairly close to you side to prevent any shoulder or mid-back problems. This also applies to your mouse, where it needs to be reasonably close to you to prevent you from that prolonged reaching position.
Adopt healthy work habits
Pay attention to your surroundings and comfort on the job. Take these steps to prevent back pain:
• Plan your moves. Reorganise your work to eliminate high-risk, repetitive movements. Avoid unnecessary bending, twisting and reaching. Limit the time you spend carrying heavy briefcases, purses and bags. If you’re carrying something heavy, know exactly where you intend to put it and whether that space is free from clutter.
• Listen to your body. If you must sit or stand for a prolonged period, change your position often. Take a 30-second timeout every 15 minutes or so to stretch, move or relax. Try standing up when you answer the phone, to stretch and change positions. If your back hurts, stop activities that aggravate it.
• Minimise hazards. Falls can seriously injure your back. Think twice before wearing high heels. Low-heeled shoes with nonslip soles are a better bet. Remove anything from your work space that might cause you to trip.
Address mental health concerns
Being under stress causes your muscles to tense, making you more prone to injury. The more stress you feel, the lower your tolerance for pain. Try to minimize your sources of stress both on the job and at home. Develop coping mechanisms for times when you feel especially stressed. For instance, perform deep-breathing exercises, take a walk around the block or talk about your frustrations with a trusted friend.
In addition, both depression and substance abuse increase the risk that low back pain will persist. Talk to your doctor if you think you may be affected by either of these issues. Effective treatments are available.
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