While your job may be paying your bills, it might also be doing no small amount of harm to your spine. The musculoskeletal workplace injury that accounts for the most missed days of work in the United States involves the back. And this issue isn’t confined to warehouse jobs where lifting is routine. Office workers spending hours at a desk are equally at risk.
While we enjoy seeing our patients here at Advanced Spine Care and Pain Management, the team would rather not have to see you for work-related injuries such as back pain or neck pain. To that end, we’ve pulled together a few proven strategies that can help protect your spine while you work, so you’re only taking home a paycheck instead of pain.
1. Mind your posture while sitting
If you’re among the millions of workers who spend hours a day at a desk, whether you’re in the office or at home, your back is under a good deal of pressure.
Sitting leads to far more pressure on the vertebrae and intervertebral discs in your back than standing or lying down. Not to mention, being seated strains the muscles and other connective tissues in your back, neck, shoulders, and hips, especially if you have bad posture.
There are two main steps you should take to offset sitting-related spine issues. First, practice good sitting posture, which includes:
- Placing both feet flat on the floor
- Keeping your shoulders back
- Positioning your head so you’re looking straight ahead
- Moving your buttocks toward the back of the chair so that your lower back is supported
The second most important technique for offsetting the effects of prolonged sitting is to get up and move each hour. Walk around for at least five minutes or use the time to stretch your spine by touching your toes and twisting.
Better still, purchase a standing desk, which can alleviate most of your sitting problems.
2. Be careful with lifting and reaching
If lifting or reaching is part of your job, pay close attention to how you perform these actions. To avoid spine issues, the trick is to engage other, stronger areas of your body when lifting, reaching, or carrying.
So, if you have to lift, bend all the way down and lift with your legs, which gets your quads, hamstrings, and glutes to do most of the, well, heavy lifting.
When you’re carrying something heavy, it’s important to keep it close to your body, in your power zone. And, if you need to reach for something, find ways to shorten that reach. Get a ladder (or whatever equipment you have) or ask someone for help.
3. Strengthen your core
One of the most effective ways to safeguard your spine is to strengthen your core, which is the muscles surrounding your spine, including your:
- Abdominal muscles (rectus and transverse abdominis)
- Erector spinae (muscles in your back)
- Pelvic floor
By ensuring that these muscles are strong, you provide invaluable support for your spine and take the pressure off the discs to prevent premature wear and tear.
To get started, click here for some core-strengthening exercises.
4. Lose excess pounds
Nearly 1 in 3 Americans is overweight, and the extra pounds are creating myriad health issues, including musculoskeletal problems.
When you’re carrying too many pounds, you’re placing more pressure on your spine, which can make you more vulnerable to work-related back and neck issues.
So, to improve your health, on and off the job, we recommend taking steps to shed weight, which will relieve added strain on your spine and major joints.
If you’d like a more tailored prevention plan, or you’ve already been injured on the job, we specialize in workplace injuries, including construction accidents, and we’re happy to help.
To learn more, please contact one of our offices in Staten Island or Hartsdale, New York, to schedule a consultation.