It’s Happiness At Work Week 2023! It’s time to put a stop to chronic pain in the workplace.
Whether your job is desk-based or physical or somewhere in-between, back pain can strike at any time due to daily habits, posture, lack of exercise or too much heavy-lifting. Many people hesitate to find help as they think it’s just part of their job, but it’s important to stop workplace injuries in their tracks to avoid problems later on.
If your job requires a great degree of physical strength and stamina, such as gardening, construction, warehouse work, general manual labour and cleaning, there’s a good chance you suffer from back pain. Disc herniations, also called slipped discs, are common complaints in physical jobs, as workers are often required to perform the same tasks again and again, irritating the nerves on the lower back. So how can you prevent workplace back pain and repetitive strain injuries?
- Stretch before you work. This will direct blood flow to soft tissues, increase the flexibility of your joints and make the change from passive to active less of a shock for your muscles. This doesn’t have to take long. We recommend gentle hamstring stretches on both legs, shoulder rotations and side to side neck stretches – if you’d like to know more, read our blog post all about how to get the most out of stretching.
- Mind your posture. When lifting heavy objects, bend your knees and let your legs do the work lifting the weight as you gradually stand up straight. Keep the weight close to you and avoid twisting. If it’s heavy or bulky – get help. This will make muscle strain less likely and will give you more control over the object you’re lifting.
Hospitality Industry Jobs
Manual labour isn’t the only physically demanding job. If you work in a restaurant, a hotel, in a shop, a hairdresser’s or any similar environment, you’re likely to spend a lot of time on your feet. This can lead to a higher incidence of back pain, as standing for a long time pushes your pelvis forwards and increases the curve on your lower spine, causing a tightening or spasm of the muscles. Luckily there are some straightforward changes you can make to prevent back pain from developing.
- Try orthotics or insoles. Back pain often comes from somewhere else in the body, most commonly the feet. By wearing orthotics, you will reduce stress on your hips and lower back. You will also support the weight of your body as it presses down on the arches of your feet, reducing the shock impact of each step. It’s also important to avoid uncomfortable shoes in general. High heels force you to walk on the balls of your feet, causing you to naturally arch your back, which if worn every day can lead to problems later. If you’d like to know what orthotics are right for you, speak to one of our chiropractors or our physio.
- Drink water. This goes for everyone, but the nature of hospitality work makes it difficult to take a break and make sure you’re having the hydration your body needs. Spinal discs are filled with a jelly-like substance, around 70% of which is made of water. When you’re dehydrated, your spinal discs can’t protect and support your spine as well as they should. Make sure you’re sipping water throughout the day and take at least a ten-minute break every couple of hours so your body has the chance to recover.
Not only physical jobs result in back pain. Staying sedentary for long periods and poor ergonomics can all affect spinal health, as well as hindering blood circulation and creating a feeling of brain fog. Sitting for hours at a time is surprisingly tough on your back, as it overstretches the spinal ligaments and puts strain on the spinal discs. So what changes can you make to ensure that your desk job doesn’t give you back pain?
- Stay mobile. Sitting on an exercise ball will keep your spine moving and stop you from being locked in one position for too long. This will also make it harder to slouch forward, which will relieve pressure on your back and neck. It’s also a good idea to stretch every half an hour, as well as standing up and walking whenever you can, just to get your circulation going and prevent getting stiff. Ask at Sundial about the Sit Fit, a discreet air-filled seating pad especially designed to keep you mobile while you’re at your desk. If you’d like to know more about how to find the most ergonomic office chair, watch our video all about it.
- Keep your screen at eye level. This will stop your head from tilting forward throughout the day and will stop your shoulders from hunching. If possible, it’s a good idea to invest in a standing desk, as this will not only increase your mobility but will naturally place your screen at a more ergonomic position for your neck.