According to the American Chiropractic Association, 80% of the population will experience a back problem at some time in their lives. Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work and half of all working Americans admit to having back pain each year. Most cases of back pain are mechanical or non-organic in nature and not caused by serious conditions. In the article “Simple Steps to Prevent Back Pain” published in the May 21, 2008 Occupational Hazards Newsletter, Laura Walter reports an increasing risk for back pain during these uncertain economic times. Many employees are working harder and longer hours in fear of potential job loss. The increased workload and body stressors are creating new ergonomic risks.
Ms. Walter outlines 3 simple steps provided by chiropractor Dr. Steven Shoshany to reduce the risk of back pain.
Step 1 relates to posture and movement. This is typically how we address back pain in the working environment. Step 2 and Step 3 are just as important as posture but less often addressed. These steps relate to work organization and work stress.
Step 1 - Posture
Dr. Shoshany reports that “good posture" means the bones are aligned in such a way that there is minimal stress or tension on the body. This proper alignment allows the muscles, joints, and ligaments to work smoothly preventing injury. Good posture enables the vital organs to be positioned properly so that they can function at peak efficiency improving digestion ad aiding in breathing. Plus, it simply makes the body feel and look better.
Dr. Shoshany offers these following tips on his website (www.drshoshany.com )
- Keep your head erect and centered above your shoulders.
- Keep your shoulders back.
- Elbow at a 90-degree angle
- Torso and thigh at a 90-degree angle
- Thigh and lower leg at a 90-degree angle.
- Even if you are sitting with correct posture at the perfect workstation, holding the same position slowly takes the elasticity out of the tissues, and stress builds up and causes discomfort. Try to remember to stand, stretch and walk for at least a minute or two every half hour. Eyes level with center of monitor
Step 2 – Work Organization
In addition to posture, Dr. Shoshany recommends organizing your workspace to help limit the risk of developing back pain. Placing frequently used items within easy reach and between shoulder and hip height will eliminate unnecessary twisting and bending of the torso. Using a headset or speaker feature on the phone prevents back and neck pain from cradling the phone against the shoulder. Proper monitor height and placement will ensure proper posture and eliminate the rounded shoulder and forward head posture that can lead to back and neck pain.
For further information, visit Injury Prevention and Ergonomics at Hand Health Resources.
Step 3 – Stress
Lastly, Dr. Shoshany discusses how stress can cause back pain by causing muscles to tense. Tension makes the muscles more prone to injury and also produces muscle knots and trigger points that can cause radiating pain. Dr. Shoshany recommends a quick walk outside or around the office as a means of reducing stress and providing the body and opportunity to stretch and regain healthy posture.
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.