Maybe you think that if you're not a lumberjack, farmer or construction worker, you won't have to worry about back pain at work. You'd be wrong, though. Workers at just about any job are susceptible to back pain.
"About 90 percent of people between the ages of 25 and 55 will have back issues some time in their lives," says Dr. Thomas Lawhorne, Orthopedic Surgeon with Fairview Park Hospital.
For most people, the pain goes away within 90 days. "What I can do for people who have an acute issue with their back is help them get better quicker," says Lawhorne. People whose pain doesn't go away within 90 days may need physical therapy or surgery.
What's better than recovering in 90 days? Preventing back issues in the first place. Something as innocuous as your desk at work can leave your back screaming by the end of the day.
Here are some tips to head back pain off before it starts.
Set up your workstation right
You probably spend 40 hours a week or more at your desk, so make sure it's working for you and your back.
"Start with chair height," says Lawhorne. Your pelvis should be slightly higher than your knees, and your feet flat on the floor. "If you're too short, it's best to get a footrest," he says.
Screen position is important too, says Lawhorne. It should be set so that your head is neutral and you're able to see the screen easily.
"Make sure there's no glare so you don't have to move your head to see parts of your screen," Lawhorne says. "Shoulders should be back and arms should hang naturally, with your elbows below the shoulders." Make sure to keep your wrists level while you are working.
If you're sitting at your desk with poor posture, you're doing yourself no favors by continuing to sit. Lawhorne says people tend to stay in poor posture for most of the day. Getting up and moving around is a chance to reset your body. A good guideline is to get up for a few minutes at the top of the hour and half-past. Take a walk, get coffee, do a quick stretch or go gossip by the water cooler.
Avoid repetitive motion
Here's another reason to take a quick break from your desk every so often. Awkward and repetitive motion puts you at risk for a repetitive strain injury (RSI).
"It's well-known to contribute to back pain," according to Lawhorne.
Take your computer's mouse, for example.
"It should be close to you if you're going to be reaching for it all day," says Lawhorne.