How long do you spend each day sitting, including your commute, and especially when ‘stuck’ in the same position at work?
At work, most of our time is preoccupied with our job duties. Rarely do we find ourselves thinking about how long we sit or stand during the day.
Regardless of whether you spend your days sitting or standing, you may be placing extra stress on your back which can contribute to back pain.
Continue reading to learn about the common causes of back pain and what you can do today to prevent back pain at work.
What causes back pain?
Over 97% of back pain is caused by mechanical factors. Often these mechanical factors stem from our habits, which in turn become a part of our lifestyle. The three most common causes of mechanical back pain are:
- Poor posture
- Improper lifting technique
While at work, we are usually under stress, have poor posture and, depending on the job, do not have good lifting techniques. By improving these habits you can prevent low back pain at work.
Improve your posture
When we sit for long periods of time, our spine is compressed, our hip flexors get tight, our core gets weak, and we begin to ‘lean’ forward.
We usually don’t even notice that we have a forward lean while sitting because we are so used to being in this fixed position. Eventually, this forward lean becomes our ‘normal’ posture.
Understanding the 5 steps to better posture is helpful to keep you aware of how you can improve your posture to reduce strain on your back.
Try these tips for practicing good posture at work: optimize office ergonomics, stand up and move, and stretch more.
Optimize office ergonomics. Take a minute to check out how your work station is set up. Since this is where you usually spend 8 hours a day, making sure your station is ergonomically sound is the first step in helping to improve your posture while at work.
Here are some considerations for the ergonomics of your workspace.
Stand up and move. When we sit for too long, our spine becomes compressed. After sitting for just 20 minutes, blood begins to pool in our legs and circulation slows. By standing up and moving you can decompress your spine and keep blood circulating.
Begin incorporating more movement into your day with these tips.
Stretch more. Stretching helps to promote mobility and flexibility in your back, especially when doing stretches that lengthen the spine. Here are two simple stretches you can begin to do throughout your day.
Practice proper lifting techniques
Lifting objects with poor mechanics puts a huge strain on your back. In addition to creating back pain, poor lifting mechanics can also exacerbate underlying back issues. Using a back brace will not fix the underlying issues of poor lifting mechanics.
Try these suggestions to ensure you have perfect form every time you lift objects.
Manage your stress
Life is stressful. Many times we let stress overwhelm us which can lead to an array of issues within our body, and eventually lead to back pain. Here are our top three tips to help manage stress while at work: move more, use breathing techniques, and use visualization exercises.
Move more. Not only does movement help with posture, but it also reduces stress. You don’t need to spend hours exercising to do so either, exercising for as little as 20 minutes per day can have a huge benefit.
Here are some tips to help you move more.
Use breathing techniques. When we’re stressed, we typically have very shallow breathing. This is a mechanism to prime the body to react to a stimulus. Extending how long we exhale can help us to de-stress because this activates our ‘rest and digest’ nervous system.
Try using these breathing techniques for 2-5 minutes throughout your day to de-stress.
Use visualization exercises. Visualizing outcomes can not only help you destress, but it can help you get out of the negative self-talk we have from day-to-day stressors like work, traffic, and family life.
Set a timer for 5-10 minutes each day to ‘get out of your head’ and shift your perception.
Putting your healthy back tips into practice
By managing the three most common causes of mechanical back pain while at work, you can begin to take active steps to prevent having back pain at work, so that your time away from work can stay pain-free.
Try choosing 1-2 of the tips listed to incorporate into your daily routine while at work to begin building a foundation for a healthy back.
Our Telespine Health Coaches have helped hundreds of people begin building habits to create their own back-pain free future. We’d love to help you, too. Contact us for more information.