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Whether it’s dull and achy or sharp and stabbing, back pain can make it hard to concentrate on your job. Unfortunately, many occupations — such as nursing, construction and factory work —can place significant demands on your back. Even routine office work can cause or worsen backpain. Understand what causes back pain at work and what you can do to prevent it.

Back pain at work can be caused by a variety of factors. As an example:

  • Force. Exerting excessive force on your back, such as when lifting or moving heavy objects, can result in injury.
  • Repetition. Certain movements, particularly those that involve twisting or rotating your spine, can cause back pain.
  • Inactivity. A sedentary or desk job can aggravate back pain, especially if you have poor posture or sit all day in a chair with insufficient back support.

Of course, aging, obesity, and poor physical condition can all play a role in back pain. While you can’t change your age, you can control your weight, which reduces stress on your back.

Recommendations

Begin by eating a nutritious diet. Ensure that you are getting enough calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients can aid in the prevention of a condition that causes your bones to weaken and brittle (osteoporosis). Many bone fractures that cause back pain are caused by osteoporosis.

Combine aerobic exercise, such as swimming or walking, with exercises that strengthen and stretch your back and abdomen muscles. Exercises that improve your balance and strength can help you avoid falling and injuring your back. Consider tai chi, yoga, and weight-bearing exercises that will put your balance to the test.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity — preferably spread out throughout the week — and strength training exercises at least twice a week for most healthy adults.

Quit smoking if you smoke. Tobacco use reduces blood flow to the lower spine, which can contribute to spinal disk degeneration and slow recovery from back injuries. Smoking-related coughing can also cause back pain.

Additional Steps

You can take steps to avoid and prevent back pain and injuries at work. For example:

  • Pay attention to posture. When standing, distribute your weight evenly between your feet. You should not slouch. Choose a chair that supports your lower back to promote good sitting posture. Adjust your chair’s height so that your feet are flat on the floor or on a footrest and your thighs are parallel to the floor. When sitting, take your wallet or cellphone out of your back pocket to avoid putting extra pressure on your buttocks or lower back.
  • Lift properly. Lift and carry a heavy object by getting close to it, bending your knees, and tightening your stomach muscles. As you stand up, use your leg muscles to support your body. Keep the object near your body. Maintain your natural back curve. When lifting, avoid twisting. If an object is too heavy to lift safely, enlist the assistance of another person.
  • Modify repetitive tasks. When available, use lifting devices to assist you in lifting loads. Alternate physically demanding and less demanding tasks. If you work at a computer, make sure your monitor, keyboard, mouse, and chair are all properly positioned. If you frequently talk on the phone while typing or writing, set your phone to speaker mode or use a headset. Avoid bending, twisting, and reaching that isn’t absolutely necessary. Reduce the amount of time you spend carrying heavy briefcases, purses, and bags.
  • Listen to your body. If you must sit for an extended period of time, change your position frequently. To relieve tension, walk around and gently stretch your muscles on a regular basis.

Examine your work environment and address any situations that may cause back pain. Simple precautions can help prevent back injury and pain.

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