Low Back Pain at Work? Let’s Fight It Together

Dr. Callie Lance DC, MS, CCSP, ART

Are you a desk jockey? This means your job requires you to sit at a desk all day. The vast majority of the U.S. working population falls into this category. If you work a desk job, you’re probably aware of the ways in which prolonged sitting can negatively impact your health. Even if you haven’t read about it in an article somewhere, the neck and back pain you experience at the end of each day are proof enough. What can a desk jockey do to counteract and prevent the adverse health effects of their job?

First, you should get to know a bit about the way the human body works. A basic understanding of biomechanics and the causes of pain, injury and poor health makes a big difference. On top of that, you’ll want to engage in some healthy daily behaviors.

Did you know that 80% of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifespan? Low back pain is the now the leading cause of disability worldwide, and for most, it is not possible to identify a specific pain generator or cause of the pain. The highest risk factors for low back pain include people who experience physically demanding jobs, physical and mental comorbidities, smoking addiction and obesity.

What is low back pain? Low back pain is a symptom, not a disease, and can result from several different known or unknown abnormalities or diseases. It is defined by the location of pain, typically between the lower rib margins and the buttock creases. It is commonly accompanied by pain or neurological symptoms in one or both legs. There are some serious causes of persistent low back pain, such as malignancy, vertebral fracture, infection or inflammatory disorders that require proper identification, but most low back pain is classified as non-specific low back pain because the specific nociceptive(pain) source cannot be identified. People with low back pain often have concurrent pain in other body sites and more general physical and mental health problems when compared to people not reporting low back pain. This can cause an adverse effect on treatment as not all contributing factors may be getting proper care.

What is the best way to prevent low back pain? Most of the typical interventions do not have high-quality research backing them. Examples of these interventions are back belts, no-lift policies, mattresses, ergonomic furniture and lifting devices. Exercise in combination with education is the most effective when preventing low back pain. Three of the best preventive measures are 30-40 minute daily walks at a moderate pace, eating an anti-inflammatory diet and having a daily mobility routine.

Treatment of low back pain should include a graded exercise program that targets improvement in function and prevention of worsening disability. There is not a specific exercise program to do beside one that is individualized to the patient needs, preferences and capabilities. Remaining as active as possible is the first line of treatment in low back care. If this does not help, look into second-line treatment options such as chiropractic, acupuncture, physical therapy and massage. Next up, help from a primary care physician or an orthopedic surgeon may be in order.

Talking to your employer about proper ergonomics is another great step. If your chair or keyboard are causing you pain or discomfort, ask for equipment that fits you and does not negatively impact your health. You want the middle of your computer screen at eye level, whether sitting or standing. Have a chair that fits you and allows for your elbows to rest while supporting your low back. Make an effort to be aware of your body position and posture. Sitting hunched and contorted will hurt you much more than taking a seat with your sternum up, abdominals braced and shoulders back. For whatever damage inevitably remains, you can engage in corrective exercises that will help make up for any posture issues or musculoskeletal imbalances. This includes looking away from your computer screen as well as movements and stretches like overhead arm reaches and cat/cow yoga movements. Also try to fit micro-breaks into your daily routine. Take some time every 30 minutes or so to get up and get a glass of water, go to the bathroom, talk to a co-worker, pick up a paper from the printer or even just walk a lap around your office. Every little bit counts.

Why should you consider Chattanooga Sports Chiropractic Institute for your health needs? Dr. Lance provides a wide range of treatments that can be beneficial for a variety of complaints. Treatment procedures include spinal manipulation, dry needling, cupping, kinesio-taping, soft tissue mobilizations and rehabilitation exercises. Patients get the tools they need to be active participants in treatment. Dr. Lance educates you on your condition and how to prevent further incident and will empower the athlete within to keep you as active as possible.

Dr. Lance is an Ohio native who chose to launch her practice in Chattanooga due to her love of outdoor activities in the region. ​In her spare time she loves being outside trying new hiking trails or running the riverwalk, meeting new people, exploring Chattanooga restaurants and volunteering with the Chamber's North Chattanooga Council. 

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