Our motto here at the Back Place is that back pain is about more than just your back, it’s about your whole life. Anybody who has ever had back pain realizes this on some level. This is why it is so important for us to encourage our customers to chat with us about their life – family, routines, stresses, etc. I find it extremely important to take time to talk about anything from the weather to grandchildren so I can listen closely for clues that will help me recommend the best roads to relief.
Back pain is caused by more than just a pinch in your musculature, it’s also about what’s pinching you in your daily life.
Let me give you an example. John is under the care of a good chiropractor, and he’s been told that he has a herniated disc. John operates a popular business in town that keeps him on his feet all day with little movement, so he came to me to explore ways to alleviate back pain, help heal his herniated disc and to prevent new injuries to his spine down the road. I showed him our inversion table and my zero gravity chair, and while he was relaxing and trying out the equipment, we started chatting about his business, and his family. In the course of our conversation, he told me that he was planning a 3-week, 2000 mile road trip with his family. What I knew, and what he didn’t think about, was that driving or riding in a car goes from uncomfortable to painful very quickly for people with herniated discs, particularly for tall people like John. So we took a look at his car together and “souped up” his ride with everything he needed to keep him comfortable during his road trip. We adjusted the seat itself, but he still needed to add a lumbar support cushion and a seat wedge to achieve the best position for him and his spine. He told me that out of all of the professionals he’d talked to about his back, I was the first person who had asked about his life, and in the process, had learned about his upcoming road trip. As a result of our conversation, he was now equipped with the knowledge, positions and habits that he needed to keep him more comfortable during his trip. This is a good thing for him, his wife and their five children as they prepare to hit the road this summer!
I would be happy to listen to your situation too – leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
When setting up your workstation keep in mind these main principles of ergonomics:
1. Work in neutral postures. Meaning, maintain the natural S-curve of your back and be sure your arms are in a resting position at your side.
2. Reduce excessive forces.
3. Keep everything you need within an easy reach.
4. Work at proper heights.
5. Reduce excessive motions.
6. Minimize static load. This means, try to keep moving as much as possible and avoid doing the same task in the same position for too long. By working muscles differently you will reduce fatigue.
7. Minimize pressure points.
8. Provide clearance.
9. Move, exercise and stretch.
10. Maintain a comfortable environment.
11. Make displays and controls understandable.
12. Reduce stress.
Are you ready to redesign your workspace, or just looking for a few ideas to adjust your current computer environment? Check out this list of suggestions that will help support your back, neck and shoulders and reduce muscle strain during the workday.
1. Raise the top of your computer monitor to eye level or even slightly higher.
2. Be sure both your monitor and keyboard are centered in front of you.
3. Reduce any glare on the computer screen.
4. Tilt your keyboard slightly toward your body, this will support your wrists and hands.
5. Keep your wrists flat and straight, and your arms and elbows tucked in close to the body with support if possible.
6. Move around and change your posture often.
7. Work with upright posture from head to base of spine.
8. Take frequent, short breaks.
9. Rest your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest, avoid crossing your legs.
Let us know your own tips for avoiding workplace fatigue! Do you do stretches during your lunch break, or use a monitor stand to place your computer at the proper height?
Our back and neck problems are as individual as we are and I learn something from each and every person who comes to me asking for products or advice. I believe you will learn something too.
Mark worked for a large corporation for years before he decided to become a consultant and work from his home office. After three years of working in an office he had thrown together over a weekend, he was experiencing significant pain and had been referred by his physician to a physical therapist. I met Mark when his PT sent him to me for a new office chair. Long story short, not only did I fit him for a new chair, we worked together to change his office so he would be able to use all the healthy features of his new chair. Mark’s pain is gone, he is no longer under medical care and he is correctly using his body and his office environment to avoid negative stress on his spine. He is fortunate that the three years he spent causing injury to his spine does not seem to have become chronic or created any permanent damage.
Lesson #1: Transitioning to a home office requires expert advice and proper planning to maintain a strong and healthy spine.
It affects eight out of 10 people at some point in their life. In the United States, it’s the leading cause of disability for men over 45 years old. It’s the second most common reason for a visit to a primary care physician and the fifth most frequent cause of hospitalization.
With stats like that, you’d think we’d know the basic facts about back pain by now. Yet misconceptions stubbornly persist. Here are a few:
• Physical activity will prevent back pain.
Back pain can affect anyone, regardless of their level of physical activity. Some sports are more likely to trigger back pain, including golf and volleyball.
•Rest is the key to recovery from back pain.
Yes, a short period of bed rest may help reduce acute back pain. But in most cases more than 1 or 2 days of rest can actually lead to increased pain and problems like muscle atrophy, bone loss and risk of blood clots.
•If I have back problems when I’m young, they will get worse as I age.
The incidence of back pain is highest between ages 35 and 55. After age 55, people usually have less pain, especially pain from disc problems.
•The spine is delicate and easily injured.
Actually, the spine and its surrounding muscles tendons and ligaments comprise a well-designed structure that’s extremely strong, flexible and supportive. Generally the back doesn’t need to be overprotected after recovering from an episode of pain (there are exceptions to this, such as an unstable spine fracture).
•There’s a standard way to treat back pain.
If only. Compared to other medical conditions, there are few standardized approaches to diagnosis and treatment of back problems. Physical therapists, surgeons, chiropractors, osteopathic doctors and other spine specialists will often disagree on the cause and treatment of back pain.
What to do? Prevention is obviously paramount. Strengthening exercises, flexibility exercises and aerobic conditioning will help maintain the back and spine. Lifting correctly (using your thigh muscles to do the heavy work), shifting your weight often while standing, wearing the right shoes or supports, sitting properly and sleeping with your head in line with your spine are all vital ways to protect your back.
Don’t let a little (or big) misunderstanding ruin your relationship with your back. It’s the stable platform of your body and deserves to be treated right.
Sources include Mark Vettraaino and Andrew J. Cole as quoted in BackSaver materials.