5 Ways to Relieve Back Pain from the Workplace

Work is difficult enough as is, but it can become even more challenging if you suffer from back pain. Back pain acts as a distraction that keeps you from getting your work done. Many people suffer back pain at some point in their lives, but many people develop chronic pain, and some experience conditions that become medical emergencies because of permanent damage to spinal nerves that control other parts of the body. Be aware of the “red flags” that could signal a medical emergency or a serious medical disease such as cancer or a kidney problem.

Back Pain with Fever or Chill
Nocturnal pain (pain at night)
Severe pain while lying down
Gait disturbance (difficulty with walking)
Back pain with bowel/bladder incontinence
Presence of severe or progressive neurologic deficit
Unexplained weight loss
Previous carcinoma
Recent trauma with suspicious fracture
Sudden back pain after traumatic event

Fortunately, most back pain is temporary and there are many ways to relieve back pain and get you back on track at the workplace. Some workplaces pay little attention to ergonomic factors and poor posture and poor work positions. From grocery stores to factories to offices, poor posture and repetitive demands can cause back pain and other musculoskeletal pain and discomfort.

1. Practice Good Posture

One of the most common reasons why you may suffer from back pain is due to bad posture. Thankfully, ergonomic furniture such as standing desks and chairs can promote good posture as you work throughout the day.

2. Go for A Walk

Staying active while working at an office job can be difficult. A standing desk can help, but you should also try and take regular walks during your breaks. Your body is designed to move around. Otherwise muscles atrophy, tighten and become at greater risk of injury when you sit all day — day after day. Going for a walk can also improve your productivity and creativity as well.

3. Use Ice or Heat Pack

Another excellent way to relieve back pain is to use heat and ice. Alternating an ice pack on the back while taking a warm shower stream for 15 minutes can help relax and improve circulation to the low back region. You may also want to try a heating pad in winter months or if your office air conditioning is too cool.

4. Stretching Muscles

Taking time out of your day to do some simple back stretches can go a long way. Some stretches that can help include lying on the ground and holding your knees to your chest or moving your legs from side to side. If pain is especially bad, only move one leg at a time. Take time to research the various stretches you can perform at home before or after work, or check YouTube for advice from a licensed physical therapist.

5. Consider Medical Treatment

If your back pain persists, then it might be time to see a doctor for a prescription for medication or physical therapy. There are several options that are all based on the severity of the pain. That is why we recommend you visit with a health professional to ensure you take the proper medication. If you experience the Red Flag conditions (above) you should see a physician or go to an emergency room immediately

The most common causes of back pain are muscle strain, degenerative disc disease, osteoarthritis, nerve impingement and spinal stenosis.

Muscle strain is often caused by excessive tightness or even damage to the muscles in the lower back. There are a number of sets of muscles of varying lengths that run parallel along the spinal column. The muscles within the group of spinal muscles can become overstretched or torn, or they can react by becoming excessively tight in a painful locked or tightened state. This is most often caused by heavy lifting, turning, twisting, or sports-related activity and overuse. These conditions can often be avoided by proper posture and body mechanics education, but if the conditions are bad enough, you may require medical help and physical therapy. Surgery is not required for muscle strain, but is considered as a last result for the conditions listed below, unless severe nerve-damaging condition requires emergency surgery, or a serious medical, such as cancer, requires immediate surgery.

Degenerative disc disease which occurs when the discs in the spine begin to degenerate or compress. Proper posture and body mechanics — to prevent aggravation of the compress disc, the vertebrae and the tissue near the compressed disc — can help people avoid pain and other symptoms. Many people live can live without symptoms with compressed discs, but many people eventually experience back pain, and pain, weakness and numbness in their legs. Disc disease may be caused by genetics, obesity, or a lifting injury or fall that caused a herniated disk. Doctors tend to want to avoid surgery and try conservative treatment

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and may be caused by genetics, obesity, and/or injury and overuse. Osteoarthritis of the spine may eventually develop as a consequence of damaged caused by a ruptured, torn or compressed disc.

Nerve impingement is the result of either a disc compressing a spinal nerve when the distance between consecutive vertebrae is reduced because of a compressed disc. The compressed nerve pain cause pain an numbness. The compression can cause irreversible damage of the nerve, which can cause permanent damage to motor control of leg muscles or even bladder control, bowel control and can also cause sexual dysfunction. Nerve impingement can be a medical emergency.

Stenosis which occurs when the spinal canal — though which the spinal cord is located — begins to narrow because of bone growth developing inward. There are numerous causes of spinal stenosis (including congenital conditions and major trauma), but degenerative disc disease can lead to spinal stenosis when a herniated disc extrudes into the spinal canal. This causes pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves (see also impingement above) which can cause pain in the legs and make it difficult to walk. Pain from spinal stenosis is often aggravated when a person arches their back, especially while standing. Spinal stenosis can cause motion to be limited because of severe pain. Spinal stenosis can also be the most difficult to treat.