Ironically, at the same time that back pain is a leading cause of workplace absenteeism, a large number of back injuries are work-related. According to a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), nearly 70 percent of workers in various occupations report at least one episode
of low back pain during the past year, and over 30 percent report as many as six such episodes. Work-related injuries also account for a high percentage of Workers’ Compensation claims.
At Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, our physiatrists treat a great many patients with work-related back injuries. While many are caused by heavy lifting and bending, a fair number are rooted in inactivity, occurring in individuals who spend their workdays in front of a computer.
If you are suffering back or neck pain you suspect may be caused or exacerbated by your work, contact one of our offices to make an appointment. Our skilled physiatrists are known for their accurate diagnoses and their wide range of effective nonsurgical treatments. More than that, we have a well-earned reputation for making our patients feel better as quickly as possible.
Common Causes of Work-Related Back Injuries
A number of factors can contribute to back pain at work, including:
- Exertion — Putting too much force on your back by lifting or moving heavy objects
- Repetition (repetitive injuries) — Repeating stressful movements, especially those involving twisting
- Being sedentary for long periods
- Poor posture
- Improper lifting
- Lifestyle factors, e.g. aging, obesity, poor physical condition, lack of exercise, unhealthy diet, smoking (which diminishes blood flow and causes coughing that may result in back injury)
Of course, disease conditions that weaken muscles, nerves, or bones, e.g. osteoporosis, and multiple sclerosis, can also make you more prone to back injuries.
How to Be Mindful of Work-Related Back Injuries
No matter what type of work you do, being aware of your movements, big and small, and your periods of inactivity, and compensating for them, can greatly reduce your chances of developing a work-related back injury. This requires effort since most of us are so focused on the task at hand that we don’t pay attention to our own movements (except when they hurt).
Preventing back injuries at work necessitates a scheduled change of focus in order to notice what you may be doing and to alter unhealthy patterns. Taking the following steps can make an enormous difference in how your back feels by the end of the workday:
- Be aware of your posture whether sitting, standing, or walking — don’t slouch
- Use an ergonomic chair or an adjustable standing desk for desk work
- Stand erect and balance your weight evenly on both feet
- Don’t keep your wallet or cell phone in your back pocket to avoid pressure on your low back
- Do some simple stretches before work and periodically during the workday to give your body a chance to realign and recover from difficult or repetitive activities
- Lift properly, keep heavy objects being lifted or carried close to your body, bend your knees and tighten your stomach muscles to lift, use your leg muscles to support you as you stand, never twist while lifting, and ask for help if the object you’re lifting is too heavy
- Modify repetitive actions by alternating tasks frequently
- Take advantage of devices that help to prevent stress to your neck and back — e.g. speakerphones, headsets, grabber tools, adjustable chairs or desks and limit the weight of your briefcase, knapsack, or purse and the time you spend carrying it
- Pay attention to your body — stretch or take a short walk as needed; if you feel a twinge or stiffness in your back or neck, change position, don’t push through until minor pain becomes major
- Examine your work environment — often simple changes to how items are stored or the purchase of a more ergonomic chair, desk or assistive lifting device can be cost-effective for employers who want to lessen absenteeism
Contact Our Experienced Doctors Today to Resolve Your Work-Related Back Injury
If you are currently suffering a work-related back injury, get in touch with our physiatrists so we diagnose the problem and start helping you heal. As soon as you contact us, we will begin alleviating your back pain.