Back Pain at Work

How to Stop Back Pain When It’s Caused from Your Work

The Myth that Back Pain Will Go Away on Its Own

Back pain or neck pain can occur anywhere – on the job, at home, or even while you’re in bed. Often, we’ve been told that back pain will go away on its own, just rest a little.

The truth is that when researchers evaluated low back pain studies, they found two things:

• Back pain did go away often when professional help (health practitioners) was given.
• Back pain did not go away on its own as quickly without professional help and affected people for a long time after it began.

(Source: Hestbaek L, Leboeuf-Yde C, Manniche C. Low-back pain: what is the long-term course? A review of studies of general patient populations. Eur Spine J 2003 Apr;12(2):149-65.)

This leads us to the next question:  If someone gets low back pain or neck pain at work, what can be done to stop it or prevent it from occurring in the first place?

How to Stop Back Pain at Work

The answer is important because of what we see happening in the statistics. From 2003 to 2004, nearly 5 million working days were lost because of back pain and these statistics don’t appear to be improving. Tens of thousands of people in the workplace have back pain or neck pain that will progress to a debilitating condition. For some reason, their body won’t heal and they are placed on Workmen’s Compensation.

Low back pain is the leading cause of disability in people aged 19 to 45. Over 20 million Americans have low back pain.

The worst part of this picture is that the quality of life of someone with back pain or neck pain is poor. Dads can’t even push their young children in a swing or play baseball with them, moms can’t pick up and hold their babies, and others can’t even drive a car with back or neck pain.

How to Identify The Cause of Back Pain or Neck Pain at Work

Often the pain that employees have is related to three things:

  1. Their posture during the time they work.
  2. The motions they are repeating. This can include frequent bending, twisting, lifting, and pushing.
  3. Unhealthy vibrational forces working on the body during work (often from driving trucks).

You may not have to have an ergonomic consultant come into your workplace to determine why you are experiencing pain on the job. Start with the evaluation of these three factors mentioned above.

1. What is your posture as you do your primary job? Are you sitting at the computer? If so, ask a buddy at work or your boss to check your posture at different times during your shift. Here’s what to look for:

• You are sitting on your sit bones, called ischial tuberosities.
• The hole in your ear lines up with the middle of your shoulder and the middle of your torso.
• Your head is in alignment with your torso, and not forward from the line connecting your ear and your torso. Headaches result when the head is too far forward.
• You move around frequently, stretching in your chair from time to time.
• You are not sitting on your wallet.

• You occasionally lean back in your chair at an angle of 110 degrees.
• Your chin is not too high nor too low.

If your job involves standing, here’s what to look for:

• Your shoes are proper work shoes, possibly with steel toes.
• You stand with your weight equally balanced between both feet.
If your job involves looking down at an object for long periods of time, your neck remains in alignment with the rest of your body while looking down, and you take frequent neck breaks to stretch your neck to each side and backwards.

• If you must reach for objects repetitively, you perform this motion in a way that is ergonomically correct.

2. Does your job include repetitive motions? If so, what type of motions?

3. Does vibration influences your movement at work? For example, does your job involve driving a truck or a car? The vibration that is associated with driving has been associated with ill health and degeneration of the joints or spine.

Correcting any of these will result in less back and neck pain over time.

Your Employer Wants You to Be Healthy

Many companies are very pro-employee and will initiate different programs to keep employees healthy. For example, back schools can help teach you proper posture during the motions that you perform at work, and correct any body positions that would contribute to repetitive motion disorders.