Low back pain is the second most common cause of employees missing work, only after the common cold. It is a common health problem and a major cause of disability – affecting productivity and general well-being.
Symptoms can be experienced in a variety of ways like:
- Dull pain or aches contained to the lower back.
- Stinging, burning pain that moves from the low back to the back of the thighs, calves or feet; can include numbness or tingling.
- Muscle spasms and tightness in the lower back, pelvis, and hips.
- Difficulty standing up straight, walking, or going from standing to sitting.
Types of low back pain
It can range from only slightly discomfiting to severe and debilitating. Low back pain may start suddenly, or it could start slowly, coming and going—and gradually get worse over time.
Acute: This comes on suddenly and lasts for a few days or weeks but the pain gradually subsides as the body heals.
Sub-Acute: This lasts between 6 weeks and 3 months and is usually from a muscle strain or joint pain
Chronic: If lower back pain lasts over 3 months, it may be chronic. This means that it is severe, does not respond to initial treatments, and requires a longer course of treatment.
Causes of low back pain
Your posture when you sit or stand are major contributors to back and neck pain. The most common causes of back pain are:
- Slouching or leaning forward in your chair.
- Holding the telephone between your ear and your shoulder.
- Lack of movement during the work day.
Treatment of low back pain
Most acute back pain gets better with a few weeks of home treatment. For many, the pain doesn’t go away for a long period, but only a few have persistent, severe pain. You should continue light activities of your daily life like walking. Stop any activity that increases pain, but don’t avoid activity out of fear of pain. If treatments aren’t working after several weeks, your doctor might suggest stronger medications or other therapies:
- Medications: May include topical pain relievers – salves or ointments you apply at the site of your pain.
- Physical therapy: Your therapist can apply heat, ultrasound, electrical stimulation and muscle-release techniques to reduce pain.
- Surgery: Few people need surgery for back pain but may be beneficial if you have unrelenting pain associated with radiating leg pain or progressive muscle weakness caused by nerve compression.
- Alternative treatments like chiropractic care, physiotherapy and yoga are also effective.
Prevention and management of low back pain
If you work on a desk all day, the following tips should protect you from experiencing low back pain:
- Keep your head up: Focus on aligning your head and neck right above your shoulders; avoid straining forward.
- Move your mouse & monitor close: Your mouse should be placed right next to your keyboard and the monitor 2 to 3 inches above eye level
- Be choosy with your chair: Pick one that allows your lower back to rest against a lumbar support. Then tilt the back of the chair so it’s very slightly reclined.
- Breathe from your belly: On each inhale, think about drawing your navel toward your spine; that engages the core muscles and supports the upper body.
- Take breaks: Getting up at least once an hour—to go to the bathroom or just do some shoulder rolls—reduces pressure on spinal disks and boosts circulation
- Don’t cross your legs: Sitting cross-legged makes it difficult to keep your spine straight and shoulders squared, and you risk overstretching the muscles around the pelvis.
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