80% of the American population will experience back pain or back problems at some point in their lives. At any given time, there are approximately 31 million Americans suffering from low-back pain specifically. With more and more people working long hours at office jobs or having sedentary jobs in general, the issue of chronic back pain has never been more important to address.
For those suffering from chronic back pain at work, there are some definite causes as to why these spinal problems are occurring. There are also some important solutions that you can implement at work order to improve posture and stay healthy while working.
What is Chronic Back Pain?
Back pain is chronic when it consistently persists for at least 12 weeks. This pain continues even after treatment for an injury or another condition. Chronic back pain can affect anyone, however, it is more common to experience it as you age. Men and women are equally susceptible to developing lower back pain, as it is dependent on several factors, including lifestyle.
One such major contributor is the sedentary nature of office work today. Sitting at a desk or using your vehicle as a mobile office promotes high levels of inactivity. These long and frequent periods of inactivity are damaging to spinal alignment and muscle strength. A lack of muscle strength or physical activity weakens the back and leads to slouching and hunching. These poor postures can eventually cause chronic pain, which can then progress into other serious health concerns.
The good news is that chronic back pain is highly treatable provided it’s addressed before serious damage is done to the spine. Spinal decompression therapy is an excellent and holistic health option for those who suffer from chronic back pain at work. Spinal decompression therapy works to alleviate tension from the spine and relieve pain from the back, shoulders and neck.
In addition to spinal decompression therapy as a treatment for chronic back pain, there are a number of posture improvements and ergonomic adjustments you can make at work to prevent further back pain.
Causes of Chronic Back Pain at the Office
A number of workplace factors, any of which can create poor posture and additional strain on your spine, can cause chronic back pain. Here are some of the top causes of chronic back pain at the office and at work:
- Sitting for too long and not taking enough breaks
- Crossing legs for too long
- Slouching or hunching the back and shoulders
- Tilting your head to look down at your monitor
- Stress and burnout
- Other improper posture habits
1. Sitting for too long: Office jobs specifically require workers to sit at desks or in cubicles for long periods. With busy office jobs, many people don’t prioritize taking breaks and instead they choose to stay seated at their desks. Many people work through their lunch breaks, as well and choose to eat lunch at their desks.
These unhealthy habits lead to a chronic sedentary lifestyle. Sitting for too long inhibits blood circulation and muscle movement both of which lead to severe back, neck and joint pain over time.
2. Crossing legs for too long: Along with sitting at a desk for too long, there is also the issue of crossing legs, which causes the hips and spine to fall out of alignment. While it may be a habit, it can severely strain the spine and lead to chronic back pain.
3. Slouching and leaning forward: Sitting for too long not only promotes a sedentary lifestyle but it can weaken the back and shoulder muscles. This causes the upper body to slouch and lean forward. As a result, your muscles have to work harder to try to keep you upright. This adds stress and strain to your upper body, particularly your shoulders and neck.
4. Looking down at your computer: If your computer monitor or laptop screen is below eye level, it further encourages you to hunch over and drop your neck out of alignment. Over time, these posture habits can cause severe upper back and neck pain.
5. Stress and burnout: Nothing causes strain on the spine quite like high levels of stress. Workplace stress and burnout can cause physical symptoms that often exhibit themselves in the form of seized neck and shoulder muscles.
6. Other poor posture habits: Most job environments today also come with the regular use of keyboards, mice and telephones. If these devices aren’t properly positioned and ergonomically designed, it can cause physical strain on your arm, shoulder and neck muscles. All of these over time cause the spine to become more and more unaligned.
Why Back Pain is a Health Issue
It is vital to correct chronic back and neck pain issues to ensure better overall health and wellbeing. Though back pain may start out as a dull ache that comes and goes, it can eventually lead to severe and long-term pain that causes debilitating injury.
Chronic back pain can affect other areas of your life including your emotional health and wellbeing. It can prevent you from partaking in events and activities, stop you from exercising and keep you from maintaining a high quality of life. Chronic back pain can affect your mood causing irritability, impatience and short-temperedness. Another often overlook symptom of chronic pain is the potential for loss of appetite and poor quality of sleep. Additionally, chronic back pain can affect your concentration and ability to perform your work because you may not be able to remember things or focus for long periods.
Over time, the combination of these symptoms can leave a person feeling depressed, anxious and generally lethargic. Left untreated, chronic back pain can cause severe physical problems to your spine, which may require surgical procedures in order to improve quality of life.
Thankfully, these symptoms are entirely preventable provided you’re willing to take a personal audit of your lifestyle and work routines and make some healthy adjustments accordingly.
11 Tips to Improve Posture While Working
With so many potentially negative outcomes from chronic back pain, it’s important to prevent this condition from worsening before it becomes completely debilitating. You can do this by better understanding ergonomics in the workplace and implementing some best practices for staying healthy at work.
Here are some tips to show you how to stay healthy at work by improving your posture and reducing the strain placed on your back and neck.
- Sit with your feet flat on the ground
- Move your shoulders back
- Open up your chest
- Keep your hips straight and flat on the seat of your chair
- Elevate your computer screens
- Stand up and move
- Perform seated stretches
- Set up computer reminders
- Set up phone reminders
- Find an accountability buddy
- Use ergonomically-designed products
1. Keep your feet flat: Sitting with your feet planted firmly and flatly on the ground is an excellent way to promote better spinal alignment at work. Remembering to place your feet flat on the ground will help to stop you from crossing your legs, which strains your hips and back muscles. You can even get a footrest for under your desk to encourage you to keep your feet straight.
2. Move your shoulders back: Pull your shoulder blades back so that they come in line with your spine. This prevents you from slouching forward and placing tension on your shoulders and upper back. It is also a posture best practice to prevent injury and chronic back pain problems. Over time, the more you can remember to pull your shoulder blades back, the more you can retrain your back muscles and realign your spine naturally.
3. Open up your chest: If you practice tip #2 enough you’ll notice that your chest naturally opens up as you draw your shoulders back. Opening your chest is a best practice for staying healthy at work because it improves posture, alleviates stress and tension and boosts respiration and focus. This helps you to remain energized longer, which in turn also prevents slouching or hunching forward.
4. Keep your hips aligned: Ensure that while you are sitting you equally distribute your weight between your hips. If you’re leaning over to one side then it can place added pressure on that side of your body, all the way up your spine. Ensure that you sit with your bum placed in the center of your chair facing your computer screen head on. This prevents you from twisting your waist and creating unnecessary strain on your lower back and core.
5. Elevate your computer screens: Ensure that the center of your computer screen is directly at eye level while sitting up straight. If your computer monitor is below your eye line, then it forces you to tilt your head downward, which over time may create chronic neck stiffness. Instead, remember that it’s best to keep your ears in line with your shoulders. This means you should be checking to make sure you’re not tilting your head too far forward or too far back to see your computer screen.
6. Stand up and move: In order to take the strain off your back and neck muscles, it’s important to stand up and move around regularly. This helps to keep your body active, which is important for maintaining health and functionality. Try walking around your office or the parking lot on breaks each day in order to stretch your muscles.
7. Do seated stretches: You can also take stretch breaks while remaining seated. There are several different arm, shoulder and neck stretches you can do while seated at your desk. Try to do a few sets every 10-15 minutes to prevent slouching and to relieve tension from your neck. Stretching your arms overhead and out to the sides and back are great ways to stretch your back and open your chest. Do some deep breathing while stretching to oxygenate your body and boost your focus.
8. Set up computer reminders: When you first begin to practice your movement and stretch breaks, it may be difficult to remember to take the time to do this regularly. Set up reminders or notifications on your computer alerting you to take breaks and perform quick stretch sessions. There is also computer software you can download which will alert you to perform your stretches. Some will even freeze your screen until you’ve completed them.
9. Set up phone reminders: Practice proper posture even when you aren’t at work. It’s still important to maintain your posture after work or on the weekends. Practicing better posture and spinal alignment regularly means that it will eventually become a habit, which can help you stay healthy at work with better ergonomics. Set up reminders on your phone to alert you to check in with your body and improve your posture.
10. Find an accountability buddy: It’s likely that if you work in an office, you’re not the only one who needs to improve their ergonomics in the workplace. Discuss healthy workplace habits with your co-workers and work together to help support and remind each other of posture improvements and stretch or movement breaks. If possible, try to get management and the rest of your co-workers involved in the awareness regarding chronic back pain from sedentary workplaces. This will help to boost wellbeing in the workplace as a whole, which is great for productivity.
11. Use ergonomic products: Using products specifically designed for your body and adjusted to your height are critical for maintaining proper posture. This includes having a chair that is high enough for your arms to comfortably reach the keyboard without straining. Other ergonomic supports may include having access to a standing desk to use for part of the day, risers or other products to elevate your computer monitors.
Products for Better Ergonomics in the Workplace
Chronic back pain due to sedentary lifestyles and office jobs is becoming a growing health concern. In response to this problem, there have been plenty of innovative products developed to prevent and correct poor posture, especially for those working at computers all day.
If you’re looking for how to be more comfortable at work, then you might want to try some of these ergonomic products for the workplace:
- Lumbar support pillows for chairs
- Risers for computer monitors
- Ergonomic mice that correct or prevent carpal tunnel and arthritis
- Ergonomic keyboards with keyboard cushions to prevent and alleviate arthritis pain
- Sliding keyboard trays to ensure your wrists and forearms rest at a comfortable angle and height
- Inflatable balls that act as an alternative to chairs
- Convertible desks that can turn into standing desks
- Footrests underneath the desk to keep your feet flat
Depending on your current condition, some of these ergonomic product options are better suited for you than others. You may also wish to use a combination of multiple ergonomic products for the workplace to ensure an overall preventative approach to chronic back pain.
Spinal Decompression Treatment for Chronic Back and Neck Pain
It’s critical to seek treatment if you’re suffering from poor spinal alignment at work. Spinal decompression therapy is a natural and non-invasive treatment method for chronic back pain. Using computerized technology, spinal decompression therapy professionals can help decompress tension in the spine from years of built up strain on the neck, shoulders and back. This holistic approach to spinal treatment can help you restore your quality of life by emphasizing your health and wellness at work and in all areas of your life.
If you’re looking for a chiropractor in Cool Springs, TN to perform spinal decompression therapy to treat your chronic pain, then choose Crist Chiropractic. Schedule an appointment at the Crist Chiropractic office in Franklin, TN today to start treating your chronic neck and back pain.