8 tips for avoiding back pain at home and at work


April 14, 2016

Topic: 8 tips for avoiding back pain at home and at work

Despite the ubiquity of back pain, it's possible to carry out a number of simple preventative behaviors that can curtail the risk, both at home and in the workplace.

Musculoskeletal injuries and complaints are extremely common, and are one of the primary causes of missed days at work, the United States Department of Labor explained. Workers in an array of industries are vulnerable to a number of different musculoskeletal injuries, often caused by practices such as heavy lifting, pushing and pulling, sitting awkwardly, or executing repetitive tasks, such as typing. There is also the risk of musculoskeletal injury outside of the workplace, with a list of seemingly benign activities, such as sitting on the couch or lying in bed, potentially contributing to pain or injury.

By far one of the most common musculoskeletal complaints is lower back pain. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons elaborated that well over 75 percent of all Americans will experience back pain to some degree. There are a number of reasons why this occurs and they are usually associated with work and lifestyle activities. For example, bad posture, heavy lifting and muscle strain all lead to the complaint. According to Britain's National Health Service, back pain is a primary cause of days missed at the office, resulting in an estimated 15 million lost work days across the U.K. in 2013 alone. 

"Over 75% of Americans will experience back pain at some point."

Despite the ubiquity of back pain, it's possible to carry out a number of simple preventative behaviors that can curtail the risk, both at home and in the workplace. Below is a guide to eight of the most effective:

1. Place a pillow under knees when resting
It's common knowledge that a bad mattress can lead to a poor night's sleep and subsequent back discomfort. Aside from investing in a comfortable mattress, a handy tip to preclude sleep- or rest-related back pain is to place a pillow under the knees, Healthline explained. The pillow will absorb as much as half of the pressure that is usually placed on the spine.

2. Make calcium and vitamin D a priority
Healthline detailed that back pain is often a corollary of aging and age-related conditions such as osteoarthritis. An important way to curtail the risk of developing the condition is through an increased intake of vitamin D and calcium. Dietary calcium can be found in dairy products such as milk and cheese, while high concentrations of vitamin D can be located in meats such as beef and fish. It's also advisable to take supplements in some cases, although a physician's consultation is recommended first. 

3. Stand straight
Good posture can significantly slash the odds of developing back problems. This is because poor posture - i.e. not standing up straight - can place strain on the spine, and over time it can actually alter its composition, Healthline noted.

4. Keep active
It's important to keep muscles active and moving. After all, a sedentary lifestyle is one of the leading causes of back issues. The NHS suggested that a break from sitting or laying down should be taken at least every half an hour, whether it be at home or at work in the office. An ideal break time will last anywhere from 2-5 minutes. 

5. Exercise more
According to Healthline, regular exercise, aside from providing a myriad of other health benefits, can cut the risk of developing back pain. Core exercises in particular are fantastic for reducing the probability of back spasms or strains. 

Sitting at a desk all day can increase the risk of back pain. Regular breaks are encouraged.Sitting at a desk all day can increase the risk of back pain. Regular breaks are encouraged.

6. Don't slouch while working on a computer
Many people report back pain after working in jobs that require them to spend long hours sitting at a desk, looking at a screen. Health.com asserted that it's a wise idea to keep the head up when looking forward at a screen. The head and neck should be firmly above the shoulders to stop the development of an unnecessary strain. While working at a desk it's also necessary to move the mouse and keyboard forward, placing them within easy reach.

7. Practice slow breathing
While this may not be an obvious step, effective breathing can actually do wonders for the lower back muscles. Health.com advised taking in deep and slow breathes before releasing: The practice gives the core a notable work out, which in turn can strengthen the back, rendering it less vulnerable to injury. 

8. Learn how to lift properly
For individuals working in industries such as construction or manufacturing, heavy lifting and pulling or pushing cumbersome items can lead to severe back injuries and chronic pain. The key to this kind of injury avoidance is learning how to lift effectively. The NHS detailed the best way to lift a heavy item: Straighten the back, keep the head completely up and then lift with the legs. The NHS also advised that it's imperative not to lift too much at any one time. Lifting is by far one of the most common contributors to long-term back problems, so following sensible safety guidelines is important in efforts to curtail risk.


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