The current economic slump means that many employees are working harder and longer hours to hold on to their jobs, a trend that poses ergonomic risks and can result in back problems. Chiropractor Dr. Steven Shoshany explained that workers can take some simple steps to ensure their work doesn’t result in painful back problems.
Whether back pain manifests as severe pain or dull aches, it can cause a big problem for the working population. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, back pain results in 100 million lost work days every year – a loss that today’s work force cannot afford to uphold.
First, Dr. Shoshany noted that a person’s body only can tolerate being in the same position for roughly 20 minutes before it needs an adjustment.
“Good posture relaxes muscles and makes it easiest to balance whether standing or sitting,” he said. Bad posture, meanwhile, leads to muscle fatigue and injury.
When a job requires workers to stand, their legs, torso, neck and head should be approximately in line and vertical, a position that requires the least amount of energy to maintain. Teachers and restaurant workers, who spend nearly 7 hours a day on their feet, can stand in good posture by keeping one foot slightly extended and readjusting at least every 20 minutes. If possible, use a nearby set of steps or a stool to rest one foot on a higher plane than the other.
When sitting, an employee should choose a chair that supports his or her back. The lower back should meet the chair and feet should be flat on the floor.
“All of your joints should form right angles from your hips down,” Shoshany said.
Preventing Falls with the Right Footwear
Shoshany explained that the shoes people wear impact their ability to maintain healthy posture while sitting, standing and walking. Unsupported shoes are difficult to walk in and can cause back-injuring falls.
Nurses who wear soft, resin-based shoes should opt for versions with ankle straps. The straps will keep feet secure, eliminating hazards as nurses rush from one patient to the next.
Wedges provide significantly more surface area than stilettos, making it much easier to walk and offering better support to the foot. Wedges are the safer option when racing from one appointment to the next and hurrying to get into cabs and trains.
Hardwood floors, marble and linoleum provide very little traction, so workers should break in the shoes before wearing them to the office. Men should be aware smooth soles combined with smooth surfaces can likely result in falls.
A common cause of back pain among writers and those in administrative or executive positions is a disorganized, cluttered workspace. According to Shoshany, all necessary equipment should readily be accessible in order to limit how much a worker must reach or twist to reach an item.
If the job requires frequent use of the phone, use the speaker feature. If that’s not possible, use a headset or a shoulder rest extension to prevent neck and back pain. In addition, the computer and monitor should properly fit on the desk so the screen can be read from a comfortable position and computer discs can be inserted with ease.
Finally, stress notoriously causes severe back pain.
“Stress can cause muscles to tense, making you more prone to injury and also causing muscles to form painful knots,” Shoshany said. “As busy as everyone is at work, taking a quick walk outdoors or around the office is a great stress buster.” Walking also provides an opportunity for the body to stretch and regain its healthy posture.
Shoshany pointed out that in today’s uncertain job market, stress levels are higher than ever – all the more reason for employees to follow a few simple steps to prevent back pain.