Back pain. According to The Journal of Industrial Medicine, more than 22 million Americans experience back pain lasting at least one week in a given year. Simply put, it’s likely that at some point in your lifetime, you have had or will experience some form of back pain. Often times it’s the physical inconvenience and limitations of back pain that are most immediately felt, yet the economics of back pain are just as, if not more so, long-lasting and impactful.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons states that back pain is the most costly healthcare problem in the workplace other than the common cold. It is the second leading cause of missed work days, equating to 40 percent of all absences or viewed another way, accounts to 83 million missed work days. This in turn may often lead to a loss in productivity and impact the bottom lines of companies and households. Ironically, it is often work related factors such as applying too much force, repetitive tasks, poor posture and stress that increase the risk of back pain and injury.
Whether you work for a company, yourself or simply are looking for suggestions on how to alleviate or preempt back pain, understanding the factors associated with back pain and implementing quick, simple ideas can reduce workplace absences and injuries while increasing productivity and morale – something that’s worth every penny.
- pay attention and listen to your body
- understand and consider ergonomics
- investigate and determine merit of trends
- encourage group activity
- adopt a philosophy of health and wellness
- be poor to your core
- forget about workplace experts
- be afraid to ask for what you need
- dabble in diagnosis
- put back pain on the back burner
Since the body is interconnected, back pain doesn’t always necessarily start with your back. By listening to all parts of your body, you best equip yourself to preemptively alleviate pain points before they materialize. The pain radiating in your leg may just be a precursor to impending back issues. Addressing the pain in the here and now helps to mitigate pain in the future.
Ergonomics is the science of making sure that workplace conditions and equipment, such as desks, lighting and uniforms, fit the worker. Investing in ergonomically friendly equipment and technologies should be used to address back pain derived from sitting in the same position for long periods of time. Understanding these principles can help prevent back strains and injury by identifying and controlling the risk factors that might strain workers' bodies.
By now, almost everyone has seen the treadmill desk or the exercise ball desk chair in action. It may initially seem silly, but these trends are on to something. Sitting in a constant sedentary position is one of the primary factors of back pain. Experimenting with new trends may help such as the treadmill desk may serve multiple roles including posture, movement and exercise.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to take back pain lying down. Moderate movement such as walking can be helpful in alleviating back pain as it allows your body to get out of a sitting posture into its natural, upright position. Engaging a partner or two increases the probability of adhering to a consistent activity schedule and provides accountability. While some movement is ideal, limit strenuous activities and pastimes like gardening, shoveling and sports that may have caused the initial pain.
Incorporation of a health and wellness philosophy into your everyday life is the simplest most effective way to ensure the tips mentioned above are put into practice on a regular basis. By prioritizing your health and understanding how your body works, you are facilitating a sustainable healthy lifestyle.
Chances are you’ve heard “lift from your core” at one point or another. This adage rings especially true when talking about back pain. The best equipment to ensure a strong core lies within you – literally. Core exercises are classified as any exercise that involves the use of your abdominal and back muscles in a coordinated fashion. These exercises are critical because they train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in tandem, leading to better posture, balance and stability. And when you have a strong core most physical activities become easier and provide less strain to your back.
According to Liberty Mutual, the largest United States workers’ compensation insurance provider, overexertion injuries cost employers $13.4 billion each year. These costs can be mitigated by inviting your company head to bring in safety representatives or occupational therapists that can help assess work conditions and provide ideas to improve health and safety. Occupational therapists can perform job site analysis and make recommendations on improvements. The result? Increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, health insurance and workers’ compensation costs and boosted morale.
Prefer a chair instead of a booth at your favorite restaurant? Need a pillow to put behind you before you sit on the couch? Sitting in the same position at work for extended periods of time? Whether at work, a restaurant or a friend’s home, don’t be afraid to ask for modifications that will help minimize back pain. If your job requires you to stand for the majority of the day, ask your employer to invest in anti-fatigue mats to help support your back. Asking for what you need empowers you to make the best decisions for your well-being.
It seems everyone can play doctor with the continuing popularity of various search engines and health information websites. But the fact remains, websites do not provide medical advice and should not be engaged as a substitute for consulting with an appropriately trained medical professional. While gathering information and checking symptoms can be prudent, the increased risk of misdiagnosis can lead to unnecessary anxiety, improper treatments and exacerbated symptoms.
According to the Medical Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, continued problems with low back pain are even more likely in patients who wait six to 10 weeks from the first onset of pain before seeking medical care. The longer you wait to address pain, the more significant injuries may be which can lead to increased healthcare costs, missed work and limited social engagements.
By being the primary advocate for your health and engaging in practices to mitigate back pain, you can identify and reduce the occurrence of injuries, increase your productivity and enhance your overall quality of life.