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Lower Back Pain among Workers - What to Do about It

01 September 2023

Most workers spend up to 12 to 15 hours a day in front of a screen in today's world of technology and digitalization. In both our personal and professional life, we frequently switch between a tablet, iPad, smart phone, computer, or TV.

If you're a typical 9-5 worker and spend most of your day sitting in front of a computer, your screen time may increase dramatically. Long-term desk work can eventually cause neck or back pain or discomfort. According to a recently released NIOSH paper, 26% of working individuals report having low back pain.

Worker groups vary in how painful they are. For instance, compared to workers in other occupations, people in the construction industry are more prone to suffer from low back discomfort. Additionally, workers between the ages of 45 and 64 experience increased pain. The research emphasizes the importance of preventing low back pain, which affects over 40 million American workers.

The science of using psychological and physical values in an environment to promote productivity and well-being is known as ergonomics. Three main areas of research may be distinguished in the field of ergonomics:

Physical Ergonomics

Behavioral Ergonomics

Ergonomics in Organizations

Physical ergonomics typically focuses on the human biomechanical, physiology, and anatomy aspects affecting posture and movement patterns. As a result of our extensive expertise and awareness of these issues, physiotherapists are particularly interested in this field of ergonomics and frequently address it.

Lower back discomfort is the most frequent physical health issue that office workers report. Poor office ergonomics can be linked to two primary categories of back problems.

The first category includes conditions that can be directly linked to poor office ergonomics or excessive sitting. In simple terms, poor office ergonomics and bad sitting posture are the reasons for injury and pain.

The second set of problems involve situations in which bad office ergonomics did not create the injury or discomfort in the first place, but they are causing it to worsen or preventing it from recovering.

Sitting in the same position for a long time can put a great deal of strain on the legs, arms, neck, and back. It can also put a great deal of pressure on the spinal discs and back muscles. Furthermore, slouching when sitting can overextend the spine muscles and put pressure on the spinal discs. In addition to being uncomfortable, poor office ergonomics and sitting position over time can harm the spinal structure and cause recurrent bouts of back or neck pain.

Practice Movement

Your spine has to be protected throughout the day, and movement is essential. Take a walk during your lunch and break instead of being tempted to eat at your desk.

There are lots of modern devices you can buy to aid with posture or to remind you to take a walk. After prolonged iPad or tablet use, these items buzz to promote good posture. The concept appears intriguing, but there haven't been any published results and it isn't advertised as a medical device.

Setting up an alarm on your phone to remind you to move around is a great way to stay active throughout a hectic day. You should try and get up regularly at work to engage the muscles and improve your posture. This will also lower the chances of developing chronic back pain and fatigue. You can get up to grab a glass of water, to chat with a coworker, or to simply take a stroll outside and get some fresh air.

Stand-Up Workstation

Sedentary lifestyles are frequently implicated as a cause of back and neck pain. A key to managing chronic pain is often switching positions during the day. Sit-stand desks have gained popularity at the office because they make it simple for desk workers to change positions. You can easily switch to a standing posture from sitting at a sit-stand desk by pulling a lever.

Your body may stretch and move with this easy motion, which is a usual inclination that supports the health of your spine. Additionally, changing postures relieves stress on the spine and improves blood circulation throughout the body.

5 Workplace Ergonomic Tips

Office jobs require a lot of sitting despite the brief breaks for short walks throughout the day and a sit-stand desk. Fortunately, there are many methods to set up your workspace to improve the comfort and health of your 9 to 5 existence.

1. Adjust the Screen

After a long day, a computer screen that is too high or low may cause shoulder or neck strain. You should aim to have the screen top or screen height at eye level so that you do not always have to glance up or down.

2. Use a Comfortable Chair

You should use a chair that comes with plenty of adjustable features, including lumbar support and adjustable armrests that maintains the natural curve of the spine. Place your thighs at hip level parallel to your knees as you recline on the chair. Put your feet up on the ground or a footrest and relax.

3. Avoid Using Your Phone while Working

Avoid using a phone or tablet to respond to emails if at all possible. It's better to sit at a desk with good posture on your computer if you'll be responding to emails for a while throughout the day.

4. Fix Posture and Keyboarding Methods

Set the height of your keyboard so that your elbows are roughly 90 degrees bent and your shoulders are not hunched.

5. Use Computer Screen Protection

If you wear glasses with progressive lenses, you'll need to tilt your head slightly for these glasses to work. Your neck pain could be a result of this tilting motion. Consider requesting office-friendly spectacles from your ophthalmologist.

Every time you sit, make sure that the natural curvature of the spine, also known as your lumbar lordosis, is in good condition. Modern vehicles and the majority of workplace seats are examples of chairs with built-in lumbar supports. If not, you can utilize a straightforward lumbar roll.

There are many different ways to employ lumbar supports and rolls as long as they are comfortable for you. Even a towel rolled up will do if you don't have an ergonomic chair available.

Avoid sitting still for extended periods of time

If you spend a lot of time sitting down because you work at a desk, make sure to occasionally stand up or switch between standing and sitting.

Move around consistently for better overall back health

There are several excellent spinal strengthening, flexibility, and posture exercises. This will considerably lessen back pain when combined with proper sitting position.

Fix sitting posture

A broad, non-specific back soreness is the most typical back condition among office workers. This is brought on by improper sitting posture, which is then made worse by sitting for extended periods of time.

The typical postures that result in this generalized back pain are:

Slumped or Slouched Posture

A slumped or slouched posture is when you sit with your back against the back of the chair, slouching into the backrest. As a result, your back does not receive the lumbar support it needs to stay in correct shape.

Leaning Forward Frequently

When you lean forward most of the time to type of to reach something on your desk, gravity attempts to pull you even more forward. The movement demands your lower back muscles to constantly remain engaged in order to maintain an upright position as you fight against the pull of gravity. These muscles eventually become worn down, which can cause discomfort or suffering.

Final Thoughts

​The back pain you experience is also known as non-specific back pain because there is no single component of the lower back responsible for the symptoms, hence the name "non-specific back ache." Instead, a variety of muscle groups or parts of the back are being strained by the incorrect posture are most likely where the discomfort is originating from.

In light of this, allowing oneself to alternate between standing and sitting is an excellent alternative for people who experience lower back pain. Therefore, investing in a sit-stand desk will be worthwhile and will definitely lower back pain as well as improve posture.

Another thing to take into account for people with pre-existing back issues is that extended sitting reconditions the core muscles. Your lower back is consequently less protected and more vulnerable to harm.

The entire weight of your upper body is carried into your pelvis from your spine when you sit. Constant lumbar spine loading from sitting may exacerbate lower back injuries or hinder healing if you already have an injury in the lower back or are experiencing lower back pain.

Poor office ergonomics can also result in more specific back injuries. However, since it will entirely depend on the action or activity you engage in, it is impossible to predict what these aches and pains are going to result into.

If you are injured outside of the office, chances are that the pain will be exacerbated by bad office ergonomics, which is just as significant as back problems that are directly related to poor office ergonomics.