Minimize Back Pain at Work: Six Ways
Lower back pain can throw a major wrench into your busy work day. To help minimize back pain at the office, try incorporating a few of these tips into your workday!
- Wear supportive footwear when standing. Avoid regularly wearing high-heeled shoes, which can affect the body’s center of gravity and negatively impact back support and posture. When standing for long periods of time, propping a leg up on a foot rest, wearing supportive shoe orthotics, or placing a rubber mat on the floor can improve comfort.
- Create ergonomic physical environments and workspaces. Undue strain will be placed on the spine unless the office chair, desk, keyboard, and computer screen, etc., are correctly positioned. Some considerations when creating an ergonomic workspace include choosing the surface height for the desk (standing, sitting, or semi-seated) best for the height of the individual worker and the task to be performed, adjusting the seat of the office chair so that the work surface is “elbow high,” and adjusting the computer screen where the gaze naturally focuses.
- Lift heavy objects correctly. Even if you’re young and strong, you can still injure your lower back if you lift a heavy object incorrectly. When lifting, be sure to bend at the hips—not the low back—and push the chest out, pointing forward. In this position, the back muscles will be used most effectively for maintaining good posture, as they are designed to do. The knees will also bend automatically so the muscles of the legs and hips will produce the power for lifting correctly.
- Practice good posture. Spending most the day sitting down can cause us to develop poor habits like sitting on the edge of the chair or hunching forward toward the computer screen. These poor posture habits overstretch your spinal ligaments and place stress on back muscles and spinal discs. To help minimize back pain, sit with your shoulders tall and your head level over your spine. Try to keep your back flush against your office chair, and place your feet flat against the floor. If you can’t reach the floor, a footrest is a great option. Avoid clenching your muscles or adopting an unnatural, stiff posture. The structures in the spine are designed for movement and any limitation in motion over a long period creates more pain and a cycle of less motion and more pain.
- Apply cold therapy. If your lower back pain flares-up at work, cold therapy may promptly alleviate your symptoms with minimal side effects. The benefits of cold therapy include reducing inflammation, numbing sore tissues, and decreasing tissue damage from injury. There are numerous discreet options for achieving these benefits, including disposable cold packs and a frozen water bottle. Just be sure to avoid direct contact between the cold source and your skin to prevent ice burn and limit the application of cold therapy to 20 minutes at a time.
- Speak with your boss. If you find that your pain is interfering with your day-to-day responsibilities, alert your boss of the situation. She or he may be able to provide you with special accommodations, such as an ergonomic chair or adjusted duties that require less sitting throughout the day. All the above advice may not completely solve your back-pain problems at the office, but it may can provide a little relief throughout the day.
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