How to reduce back pain at work

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Health Assured team

09 January 2020

Why wait for BackCare awareness week to discuss accurate back care?

In 2018, there were 186,000 workers suffering significant back issues at work. That’s 40% of the total musculoskeletal issues. Back pain and work absence cost the UK 6.6 million working days. The message is clear—you need to look after your back.

Sitting for extended periods at work can cause havoc on your back. This piece serves as a guide for employees to combat work-related back pain.

 

Preventing back pain at work

Almost all workplaces place a significant strain on your back—even sedentary office jobs. There are three main factors that cause back pain:

  1. Force: You’re probably most familiar with this one. Lifting and moving heavy objects causes muscular strains, which manifest as pain.
  2. Repetition: Regularly repeating movements like twisting and rotation of the spine cause injury over time. Torsional forces can even cause bulging and herniation of discs—a serious issue which requires surgery to correct.
  3. Inactivity: This, combined with poor posture, wreaks havoc on the lower back.

You can take steps to mitigate each of these, for instance:

  • Lift properly: It’s a cliché, but lifting with your legs and not your back is great advice. Tighten your core, keep your back to its natural curve, and don’t twist. The best advice, of course, is to get someone else to lift for you—especially if the item is too heavy.
  • Change up the repetition: If you’re spending a whole morning lifting items, take breaks to stretch every so often. If there’s something else you can do—a little admin, or just making everyone a coffee—take advantage of the opportunity to give your back a little rest.
  • Keep posture in mind: Balance your weight on your feet evenly, keep your back straight, and try not to slouch. If you’re at a desk all day, use a chair, which supports the curve of your spine correctly, and be sure your feet are flat on the floor. The HSE provides workplace chair regulations—seating at work—that cover risk assessments and good seating practice. You can download them free here.

 

Can back pain be stress-related?

This is a relatively new idea. It’s known as tension myositis syndrome and works like this:

  • Stress naturally causes a decrease in certain activities—you might not have time for exercise, you might spend more time in your office chair, you might walk less and rely more on your car.
  • This results in lower back pain, which means you’re even less likely to carry out beneficial activities for fear of making the pain worse.
  • Eventually, you get physically deconditioned, the muscles in your lower back weaken, you begin to compensate through bad posture and painkillers, and the cycle repeats.

Stress-related back muscle pain can be treated in the same way as other back issues—physiotherapy, a change in lifestyle and routine, and addressing the causes (such as a poor office chair or repetitive actions). But it’ll keep coming back if the stress is still there.

Counselling in order to reduce the stresses you feel is just as important in treating this pain as every other treatment.

Health Assured is an expert in providing helpful counselling to mitigate any and all workplace issues—while we can’t promise to fix your back, we can help with the underlying stresses that might cause the problem. Call today on 0844 892 2493.

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