Experiencing work-related back pain is common and can happen no matter where you work. People who work in offices, construction workers, and anyone who has to remain standing for long periods of time can all experience back pain.
Common causes of back pain include:
- Force. Lifting or moving heavy objects can exert too much force on your back, which can result in injury.
- Repetition. Any repetitive movement that involves twisting or rotating your spine can result in back injury.
- Inactivity. Inactive jobs or desk jobs can contribute to back pain, which can get worse if you have bad posture or sit in a chair with inadequate back support.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to get back pain relief. To help avoid back pain and injuries at work, focus on the following:
- Pay attention to posture. Don’t slouch. When sitting, make sure your chair has adequate support for your spine and adjust your seat so that your feet are flat on the floor. Also remove your wallet from your back pocket when sitting to prevent extra pressure on your buttocks and lower back.
- Lift properly. Lift any heavy objects with your legs and tighten your core muscles, holding the item close to your body. Don’t twist when lifting and, if an object is too heavy, ask for help.
- Modify repetitive tasks. If possible, use lifting devices to help you lift heavier objects. If you work at a computer, make sure that your chair, monitor, mouse and keyboard are positioned correctly.
- Listen to your body. If you’ve been sitting for an extended period, make sure you get up and move around periodically. It’s also important to gently stretch your muscles to help relieve any tension.
Work-Related Back Pain
Back pain at work, or a sore back after work, can stem from many different sources. Depending on what kind of job you have, your back pain can be caused by things you do every day. These are the most common types of jobs that have their own unique challenges related to back pain:
- Desk jobs. If you’re sitting at a desk from 9-5, you’re at risk for non-accidental back injury. Making sure your work environment is ergonomically designed can help reduce your chances of getting a back injury.
- Standing jobs. Some jobs require you to stand for long periods, such as hostesses or cashiers. Making sure that you stretch periodically and also wearing comfortable shoes can help here.
- On your feet jobs. Waiters and waitresses, doctors and nurses, and others spend most of their work days moving around. While activity is good, it’s also important to make sure you’re paying attention to posture and not unnecessarily twisting your spine.
- Manual labor jobs. For people who work in construction, landscaping, or other jobs that involve heavy lifting, it’s important to lift correctly to avoid back injury.
Lower Back Pain Relief
If you’re experiencing lower back pain, there are ways to help alleviate the pain. Here are some things you can do to keep lower back pain at bay:
- Hot and cold treatments. If you’re experiencing lower back pain, treating the area by alternating hot and cold compresses can help. It’s important to start with cold applications during the first 24-48 hours, then move to hot treatments.
- Over-the-counter medication. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen can help with lower back pain. Talk with your doctor before taking any pain medication.
- Physical therapy. Physical therapists can show you the most beneficial ways to sit, stand, and move to help you deal with lower back pain. They can also show you how to strengthen your core, which helps strengthen muscles that support your back.
- Nerve stimulation. This includes using methods like acupuncture and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to stimulate the nerves, which can block incoming pain signals.
- Spinal injections. For certain kinds of back pain, your doctor may recommend a spinal injection to help reduce pain. Depending on the medication being used, your doctor may limit your number of doses per year to avoid side effects.
- Back surgery. This is typically the last resort. If you have a bulging disc pressing against a nerve, your doctor may recommend surgery, such as a laminectomy or discectomy, to help fix the pain.
- Biofeedback. This involves using a special machine that helps you train your brain to control your response to pain. By moderating your breathing, heart rate, blood flow, and muscle tension, you can reduce your pain intensity by as much as 30%.
- Acupuncture. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, acupuncture can be effective for treating lower back pain. The needles used in acupuncture can stimulate the release of pain causing chemicals in the body.
- Rethink your workplace. If you spend your days
behind a desk, there are ergonomic changes you can make that provide lower back
pain relief, including how you position all of the things you use on a daily
- Key objects. Whatever things you use the most during the day should be positioned nearby, close to your keyboard. Repeated twisting and reaching can cause strain on your lower back.
- Chair. Your chair should be adjusted so that your feet are comfortably flat on the floor and your hips and knees are aligned. Your chair also should provide adequate support for your lower back.
- Monitor. In most cases, your monitor should be roughly an arm’s length away with the top of your screen just below eye level.
Upper Back Pain Relief
In addition to using many of the methods described above for lower back pain, there are many things you can do help relieve pain in the upper back:
- Exercise. Staying active by going on regular hikes, participating in sports, lifting weights, and stretching can all help condition the upper back.
- Quit Smoking. If you need another reason to quit smoking, multiple studies show that people who smoke are more likely to have chronic back pain and accelerated degeneration of discs.
- Cognitive behavior therapy. Your therapist can help you find better ways to deal with negative thoughts associated with your back pain.
- Mindful meditation. This method involves learning meditation and breathing techniques to help reduce stress, which can be as effective as cognitive behavior therapy for helping patients better deal with chronic back pain.
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If you have any additional questions about work-related back pain, find a Baptist Health provider near you today.