Does your job give you a pain in the neck or back? 30-50% of the general and work population report back pain annually, meaning it’s one of the most common musculoskeletal problems. A whopping 80% of the population will suffer from it at least once in their lifetime.
Most neck and back pain is due to a disc-related problem. Most people will recover on their own but 85 % of people have recurrent episodes which can lead to chronicity, disability, and in some cases, a need for surgery because of the poor vascular (blood) supply to the disc. Neck and back pain can contribute to substantial health care cost and loss of work and productivity. Fortunately, there is a way 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 walk around every 45 minutes
- Use a lumbar cushion in the small of the back to maintain good posture.
- Use a wedge in your office chair to assist the body in maintaining lumbar lordosis (inward curve) with minimal effort from the muscles and improve ability to reach items on your desk without straining the neck and back.
- Do not sit on soft furniture that does not support good posture.
- Do not sit with one leg tucked under you. Use an adjustable foot rest instead.
- Take a walk at lunch time for 10-15 minutes to improve the nutrition of the disc and its ability to perform as a shock absorber.
- Adjust chair and desk height so that the work surface is fist height under the elbow.
- When prolonged standing is required, rest one foot on a small step or ledge to relieve strain on the lower back.
- When it is inconvenient to stand or walk around, tilt the pelvis forward and backward 10 times or sit to the edge of the chair as tall as possible. Gently push the heels into the floor. Lower the shoulder blades down and back as if placing them in your back hip pockets. Use a gentle contraction and hold this position for 30 seconds.
- When lifting, minimize pressure on the disc by keeping the small of the back hollow while bending at the knees and hips. As you stand up, straighten through the hips and knees while keeping the back as immobile as possible. Keep the load as close to you to reduce torque on the 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.