Parth is a budding architect who spends most of his time hunched over the computer trying to complete his ever pressing deadlines. He follows hectic work schedules and leads a sedentary lifestyle.
A few months back, Parth started experiencing a shooting pain in his lower back; he paid no heed to it as he believed that this pain would subside on its own as it had arrived suddenly. However, Parth was terrorized with an unbearable pain and had to be admitted to the hospital and put on traction for a week.
It has been seen that the number of professionals in their 20s and 30s facing back pain is increasing considerably. Studies suggest that 8 out of 10 computer users suffer from back related issues at some point of their time.
Well Known Physiotherapist, Dr Kavita Tiwari says, “Back pain has always been associated with old age however young professionals are also experiencing back pain due to poor posture while sitting or standing, driving long distances, prolonged working hours and mental stress.”
Let’s understand the various factors that cause back pain at work
Wrong sitting postures like slouching while sitting exaggerates your back’s natural curves which can lead to muscle fatigue and injury.
Repeating certain movements especially if you are using awkward body positioning can lead to muscle fatigue or injury.
Many occupations such as construction, factory work, etc which exerts too much force on your back can cause back injury. For instance lifting or moving heavy objects unwisely or bending too sharply can cause back pain.
Lack of exercise or leading a sedentary lifestyle restricts the ability of the back to move and can lead to conditions like muscle inflexibility or weak back muscles.
Studies suggest that excessive pressure at work can increase your stress levels which further leads to tightness and muscle tension and contributes to back pain. Dr Kavita Tiwari explains, “Blood flows through the muscles of your neck and back with very little resistance. However, when you are emotionally stressed, certain muscles may tense up and squeeze these blood vessels. When the neck and back do not get proper blood supply, you experience pain. Hence psychological factors in the workplace like stress, job dissatisfaction, boredom and tension can contribute to low back pain.”
Tips to avoid back pain at work:
Use good posture
Bending your back while sitting, or slumping in your chair exerts pressure on the spine. To prevent back pain promote good posture.
a) Choose ergonomically designed chair. The back rest of the chair should match the shape of your spine. You can also place a rolled towel or a small pillow behind the lower back to support the back.
b) Adjust the height of the chair so that you can place your feet flat on the floor while keeping your knees in level with your hips. To offer support to your feet you can place your feet on the stool. Dr Kavita Tiwari explains, “Your standard spinal alignment might be changed if you are not sitting with right hip and knee angle; ultimately leading to back pain. It can also make your spine more vulnerable to every day wear as well as injury. Adjusting the angle of your chair guarantees least quantity of load on your spinal and pelvic structures.”
c) If your work involves standing for a longer duration, rest one foot on a stand or a stool. “Professionals whose work demands long hour standing mainly in one position like beauticians, surgeons etc, need to be extra cautious as they are more prone to back pain. Changing position regularly, stretching the back & neck muscles at regular intervals is seen to be of little benefit. Taking rest in between the work will also help the muscles to relax hence prevent them from straining” says Dr Kavita Tiwari.
d) Do not place your wallet or mobile phones in your back pockets when sitting as they put additional pressure on the lower back or your buttock.
e) When lifting heavy objects bend your knees and tighten your core muscles to avoid injury.