Does your job or day-to-day activities leave you with neck or back pain? You’re not alone.
In fact, 30-50 percent of the general and work population report back pain annually, meaning it’s one of the most common musculoskeletal problems. A whopping 80 percent of the population will suffer from it at least once in their lifetime.
Most neck and back pain results from an issue with a spinal disc. Spinal discs act as shock absorbers between the spine’s vertebrae and become more at risk of injury with age.
While most people will recover on their own, 85 percent of back-pain sufferers have recurring episodes that can lead to chronic pain and disability. In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary due to poor vascular (blood) supply to the disc.
Neck and back pain can contribute to substantial healthcare costs and loss of work and productivity. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your risk of disabling neck and back pain.
Here are a few key steps to maintaining a healthy back.
- Avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time. Make a point to stand up or take a short walk at least every 45 minutes
- Use a lumbar cushion in the small of your back while seated to maintain good posture.
- Use a wedge in your office chair to help maintain lumbar lordosis (inward curve) with minimal effort from your muscles. This adjustment will also make it easier to reach items on your desk without straining your neck or back.
- Do not sit on soft furniture that does not support good posture for long periods of time.
- Do not sit with one leg tucked under you. Use an adjustable footrest instead.
- Take a 10-15-minute walk at lunchtime to improve blood flow to your spinal discs and support their ability to perform as a shock absorber.
- Adjust the height of your office chair and desk so your work surface is fist height under your elbow.
- Rest one foot on a small step or ledge to relieve strain on your lower back when prolonged standing is required.
- Take a posture reset when it is inconvenient to stand or walk around. Tilt your pelvis forward and backward 10 times or sit as tall as possible on the edge of your chair. Gently push your heels into the floor. Lower your shoulder blades down and back as if trying to place them into your back pockets. Gently contract your abdominal muscles and hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Minimize pressure on your spinal discs when lifting objects by keeping the small of your back hollow while bending at your knees and hips. As you stand up, straighten through your hips and knees while keeping your back as immobile as possible. Hold the object close to your body to reduce torque on your back.
Molly Dudick, PT, COMT, is a Clinical Specialist and Coordinator of Clinical Education for OrthoCarolina. Her area of practice focus is in the evaluation and treatment of spinal conditions.