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The Doctor’s Orders - Back to Basics – Back Pain at the Work Place Print E-mail
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Written by By Dr. Ajay Hotchandani   
Thursday, 31 July 2014 00:00

A study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, researchers concluded that 37% of lower back pain was attributed to occupation.  In some countries more people are disabled from working as a results of musculoskeletal disorders, especially back pain, than from any other diseases.

Lower back pain or back pain is defined as pain in the soft tissues of the affected region.  Though rarely a topic of public health, the Pan American Health Organization has identified it as an occupational problem to be monitored.  Data from the Global Burden of Disease 2010 study stated that, “Overall, out of the 291 conditions studied, low back pain was at the top in terms of years lost to disability and seventh in terms of Disability Adjusted Life Years.”  To put things in perspective, lower back pain is up there with stroke and heart disease.

The risk of exposure to back pain can be broken down into three levels:

Low exposure:  Clerical and sales works

Moderate exposure: Operators (production workers) and service workers

High Exposure: Farmers and labor intensive workers

One group where the levels are increasing is the low exposure group.  This can be mainly attributed on people spending far greater time at their desk, on their computer and less time walking around or exercising.   What is complicating matters is the posture most of us develop while sitting at the desk for hours appears to be starting at an earlier age, < 18 years old, which in turn will lead to chronic back pain being reported at ages as early as 20’s.   For the individual, chronic back pain can lead to a poor quality of life and increased dependence on pain medication for temporary relief.  For employers, this poses a threat also as they will see a rise in more sick days, with the main cause being occupational – back ache due to sitting at a desk.

Because of the progressive nature of the condition, it is often looked at as a ‘something that will pass’ or ‘something I’ll just have to learn to live with”.   As it is often said, “prevention is the best cure”.  So how does one prevent back pain?  Here are some simple tips that you try:

1. Posture – it is important to improve posture.  Sitting upright vs slouching.  Poor posture will lead to increased chances of lower back aches due to stress placed on the lower back. 
2. Avoid prolonged periods of sitting at a desk (‘working’ on the computer).  Every hour take a minute or two to walk around, stretch and loosen up.
3. Weight loss – if you think about it, your back is responsible for holding up all your upper body weight, so you can just imagine the stress the extra abdominal weight places on spine/back.
4. Avoid high heels – (them some fighting words I just said there).  High heels have been shown to cause lower back straining.
5. Proper lifting technique – lift with your knees, not your back. 
6. Wallets – if your wallet looks like a minibook it may be too much.  Prolonged sitting on a wallet may cause the back to be misaligned, leading to lower back aches.
7. Stretching & Exercise – overall exercise helps to strengthen muscles and relieve back aches.
Again, this is just a simplified explanation of lower back pain and its impact.  If you are experiencing chronic back aches please see your physician.

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