Every year, thousands of Australians phone the office to tell them they’ve got a bad case of back pain and that they cannot report to work. Chiropractors and occupational health specialists say that back pain is the number 1 cause of lost man-hours in many businesses. And while it is safe to say that many business organisations today are taking more proactive steps to address the issue, some people just don’t see it that way. So, is your job causing your back pain?
There are plenty of reasons why certain jobs can put people at an increased risk for back pain than other jobs. For instance, jobs that require repetitive movements that involve the spine or back can potentially increase the risk of back pain.
Consider employees in the manufacturing industry where they have to lift heavy objects many times in a single hour. The constant bending and stretching of the spine can overstretch the muscles of the back causing strain and pain. One can only imagine that if this movement is repeated day in and day out, every week for the entire year and the multiply this by the number of years that one has been doing the same job, then it is easy to see that back pain can become a real problem.
But, one doesn’t have to look at heavy objects being lifted as the sole culprit of back pain in the workplace. Even simple body movements such as turning to one side or even picking up a small item that fell on the floor can also lead to back pain.
Everything has something to do with the maintenance of one’s centre of gravity. We are not especially conscious about observing proper body mechanics and keeping the centre of gravity. Most of us will instantly bend at the waist to pick up a fallen object instead of bending at the knees to help keep the centre of gravity closer to our core.
If you pick up a certain object by bending at the waist you’re essentially moving your centre of gravity towards the front. This makes your front heavier, pulling you face forward. To prevent this from happening, the muscles of the back will have to compensate by tightening themselves to pull you backwards. Unfortunately, there will always be instances when these muscles will be so strained that you’d feel your back ‘snap’ just as soon as you rise from the bent position.
The way you sit on your office chair can also increase the likelihood of suffering from back pain. Most of us feel more comfortable sitting in a reclined or slouched position. Sadly, there are no seat structures that support our backs. As such, the muscles of the back will have to contract to support themselves. Over time, these muscles can be severely strained and lead to back pain.
Come to think of it, it’s not really the job per se that is causing back pain in the workplace, but rather our own disregard for the observance of good body mechanics. Be mindful of how you move and you’ll be saving yourself from the hassles of back pain.