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Back Off: Preventing Back Aches and Pains at Work

Feb 29, 2008
You know the scenario well. After a day at your desk, your back is screaming in pain. It seems no matter which way you try readjust your posture the pain still persists, making it nearly impossible to concentrate on your job.

In addition to routine office work, many occupations such as nursing, construction or factory work can place significant demands on your back. But by paying close attention to what causes your pain, you can focus on efforts to bring about pain relief and prevention.

While doctors and scientists aren't entirely sure of all the causes of back injury, most back problems are probably the result of a combination of factors. Some factors are not preventable, such as family history. Other factors such as weight, fitness and flexibility, can be controlled by making changes to lifestyle. Existing work factors which contribute to back problems may or may not be modified to prevent injury. Four work-related factors are associated with increased risk of back injury:

1. Force: Exerting too much force on your back may cause injury. If you job is physical in nature, you may face injury if you frequently life or move heavy objects.
2. Repetition: Repetition refers to the number of time you perform a certain movement. Tasks that require repetition can lead to muscle fatigue or injury, particularly if they involve stretching to the end of your range of motion or awkward body positioning.
3. Posture: Posture refers to your position when sitting, standing or performing a task. For instance, those who spend most of their time in front of a computer may experience occasional aches and pains from sitting still for extended periods of time. On average, a body can tolerate one position for about 20 minutes before you feel the need to adjust.
4. Stress: Pressure at work or home not only increase your stress level, but can lead to muscle tension and tightness, which may in turn lead to back pain.

Avoiding Injuries
It can never be emphasized enough that fitness plays a huge role in preventing back injury and can bring about pain relief for those currently suffering from back problems. To avoid future back problems, your best bet is to be as fit as you can be and take steps to make your work and working environment as safe as possible.

Even for those whose jobs require physical exertion, exercise is still is a must for good health. Regular exercise is also a must for maintaining a healthy back. Firstly, you'll keep your weight in check. Carrying around a healthy weight for your body's frame minimizes stress on the back. There are specific strengthening and stretching exercises that target back muscles. Regular exercise also increases long-term flexibility. Strong and flexible muscles keep your back in its best shape.

Poor posture at work is a key offender to back problems. Slouching or standing with a swayback exaggerates the body's natural curves. Such posture can lead to muscle fatigue and injury. Good posture, in contrast, relaxes muscles and requires minimal effort to balance the body.

When standing for long periods of time, rest one foot on a stool or small box from time to time. Hold reading material at eye level when standing. Avoid bending forward to do desk work or handwork. To promote comfort and good posture while sitting, choose a chair that supports the back. Adjust the chair so that you feet stay planted on the floor. Use a rolled towel or small pillow if you chair does not support your lower back's curve.

Also, look at the setup of your workspace. Consider how you could modify repetitive job tasks to reduce physical demands. If you're on the phone most of the day, use a headset. Avoid cradling the phone between you shoulder and ear to free up your hands for other tasks. If you work on a computer, make sure the monitor and chair are positioned properly. If you sit for prolonged periods, take a 30-second timeout every 15 minutes to stretch, move or relax. Avoid unnecessary bending, twisting and reaching. Limit the time you spend carrying heavy objects, such as briefcases, boxes, and purses.

Finally, to minimize the stress that can lead to tense back muscles, try to reduce the sources of that stress at home and on the job. Develop coping mechanisms for times when you feel really stressed. For instance, perform deep-breathing exercises, take a walk around the block, or talk about your frustrations with a trusted friend.
About the Author
Geologix Inc. manufactures products using a proprietary formula featuring 34 natural minerals contained in the ancient sea water from the famous Michigan Basin -- a concentration of minerals higher than that found in any known body of water in the world. Mineral Essentials focuses on spa, skin care, and massage products to moisturize and provide anti-aging protection for great skin. Mineral Essentials, and Acheaway
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