Heavy lifting, repetitive movements and sitting at a desk all day can take a toll on your back. Get the facts about back pain at work and how to prevent it.
Whether it’s dull and achy or sharp and stabbing, back pain can make it hard to concentrate on your job. Unfortunately, many occupations — such as nursing, construction and factory work — can place significant demands on your back. Even routine office work can cause or worsen back pain. Understand what causes back pain at work and what you can do to prevent it.
Common causes of back pain at work
A number of factors can contribute to back pain at work. For example:
Back pain and lifestyle factors
Of course, factors such as aging, obesity and poor physical condition also can contribute to back pain. While you can’t control your age, you can focus on maintaining a healthy weight, which minimizes stress on your back.
Start by eating a healthy diet. Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients can help prevent osteoporosis, a condition that causes your bones to become weak and brittle and is responsible for many of the bone fractures that lead to back pain.
Combine aerobic exercise, such as swimming or walking, with exercises that strengthen and stretch your back muscles and abdomen. Exercises that increase your balance and strength can also decrease your risk of falling and injuring your back. Consider tai chi, yoga and weight-bearing exercises that challenge your balance.
For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity — preferably spread throughout the week — and strength training exercises at least twice a week.
Also, if you smoke, quit. Smoking reduces blood flow to your lower spine, which can contribute to spinal disc degeneration and slow healing from back injuries. Coughing associated with smoking can also cause back pain.
Preventing back pain at work
You can take steps to avoid and prevent back pain and injuries at work. For example:
Back pain can plague your workdays and free time. You’re not stuck with it, though. Examine your work environment and address situations that might aggravate your back. Even simple steps to ease back pain are steps in the right direction.