Back pain is one of the most common ailments in the U.S. affecting adults, with 80 percent of the population complaining of having this type of pain at some point in their lives. About 1 in 4 adults report that they have experienced lower back pain in the past 3 months. Back pain is the top reason people miss work, and a leading cause of job-related disability, according to the National Institutes of Health. Whether it’s a sharp pain or a constant, dull ache, this pain can be debilitating.
While most back pain is short-term and will often heal on its own, there are a few things that you can do to prevent injuries in the future. A back support belt or ergonomic desk chair are two of the easiest and most effective ways to avoid back injuries.
Finding the Right Back Support
There are many different choices for back braces and ergo chairs on the market, but you want to find the right one based on your pain. It is a good idea to consult your doctor, or a back specialist, to properly diagnose any injury and discuss options for back support. If you are lifting heavy objects frequently, your needs will differ from someone who suffers from back pain related to sitting at a desk. Try out several different options from medical supply stores or back support stores to find the one that works best for you.
In some cases your company or an insurance provider might cover the cost of your back support. Talk to your human resources department and review your employee handbook to determine if this applies at your workplace.
Preventing Injury on the Job
In addition to wearing supportive belts or sitting in ergonomic chairs, there are some things you can do to prevent back injuries from occurring:
- Learn how to properly lift heavy objects, using your legs instead of your lower back muscles
- Ask for assistance with items that are too heavy to lift on your own
- Strengthen your back muscles with regular exercise
- Get an office chair that provides lumbar support and has adjustable height, back, and arms
- Consciously think about your posture throughout the day while sitting at your desk—thighs should be parallel to the floor, back should be straight, shoulders should be open (not hunched over), and arms should be resting lightly on the keyboard without straining
- Set an alarm to get up and walk or move around at least once an hour throughout the day
Treating a Back Injury
If you experience back pain, rest on a flat surface and take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen, to help reduce inflammation and discomfort. If your back pain is severe, lasts more than three days, or it happened on the job and you will need to return to physical labor, be sure to consult a doctor for proper treatment.