Whether you are an emergency responder, teacher, construction worker, or hairstylist, working on your feet all day might be causing you back pain. It’s possible that one of the reasons you wanted a job that kept you active was because you thought it would help you stay healthy longer; back pain isn’t something you anticipated. Unfortunately, back pain seems like something most people just won’t escape. In fact, about 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives. So what can you do to reduce your back pain and keep working on your feet? Don’t just be active, but be active safety by taking certain precautions before the job. Here’s what you need to know:
Back pain problems and solutions
Because everyone and every job is different, there are a plethora of potential problems and solutions for your back pain. Here are some of the most common ones. Remember to always ask your doctor for a diagnosis of your back pain, and never start a new exercise regimen without consulting your doctor first.
Problem: Muscle strain in lower back. Muscle strains in your lower back are one of the most common causes of lower back pain. Your lower back moves, twists, bends, and supports your upper body weight; therefore, it is very easy to hurt. A muscle strain happens when your muscles are overworked or injured and the ligaments are torn from their attachment. It sounds painful, and it is (you know). You might have a muscle strain in your lower back if you feel these symptoms: lower back pain radiating to the buttocks but not the legs, stiffness in the lower back, less range of motion, inability to have correct posture due to pain, muscle spasms, pain lasting longer than 10 days. Seek medical attention immediately if you have severe abdominal pain, a fever, or loss of control of bladder or bowel movements.
Solution: Keep staying active, with precautions. You might be thinking that being active is what got you into this mess in the first place. While that may be true, you can take precautions so that this doesn’t happen again. Before work each day, take time to stretch your muscles. Read this blog post to see how to properly and safely stretch. When lifting heavy objects, do so carefully, keeping the natural arch in your back and bending your knees. Also try strengthening your core muscles to keep your lower spine safe in the future. Another thing you can do is try and maintain correct posture as you work. Besides staying active, here are some other things you can try to reduce your pain: rolling on the Chirp Wheel, yoga, massage, seeing your chiropractor, acupuncture, or hot & cold therapy.
2.Problem: Poor posture. Unfortunately, there is a reason your mother nagged you about your posture your whole life. Poor posture causes back pain. When you have poor posture, your core muscles become weak, which leads to your other muscles compensating for your weak core.
Solution: Strengthen your core strength and fix your posture. This is easier said than done. When working, it is easy to slouch, and sometimes even seems necessary (i.e. slouching down to cut hair or help a patient). The truth is, you can work while maintaining correct posture. You just need to make it a habit by starting to strengthen your core. To learn how to fix your bad posture, read our other blog post. If you want ideas on improving your core strength, read this blog post.
3.Problem: Lack of stretching. Going a long time without stretching could be harmful to your back for many reasons. When you don’t stretch, your muscle fibers become tight and short, so when you need to use your muscles again, you are at greater risk for injury, strains, sprains, or other damage.
Solution: Stretch . . . duh. It is recommended that you stretch your muscles daily or at least 5 times a week to help prevent injury or damage to your muscles and to reduce tension and pain in your back. The best time to stretch is after you have been active so that your muscles are warm and pliable. Read our other blog post to learn more about how and when to stretch.
4.Problem: Disc issues. A herniated disc, ruptured disc, or other disc issue could be causing your back pain. If your job involves frequent lifting, straining, or if you have been injured at work, it is possible your back pain is from a disc issue. Herniated disc can also cause other issues like sciatica, which can cause you more pain.
Solution: Lift correctly and stay moderately active. If you have a herniated disc or other disc issue, one of the best things you can do to prevent this from happening again is to learn to lift correctly. When you lift an object, squat down, maintaining the natural arch in your back and bending at the knees instead of the hips. Never lift anything that is too heavy for you. To help yourself heal if you already have a disc issue, see your doctor for help. He will likely recommend that you stay active at a low level to avoid pain.
Problem: Excess weight. Obesity can cause back pain because excess weight can pull your spine out of alignment. Spending excess time on your feet at your job might be making the pain worse. While obesity is certainly not an easy fix, and for some impossible, don’t lose hope. There are things you can do to reduce back pain without having to lose weight.
Solution: Treat yourself. If losing weight just isn’t in the cards for you, go see a masseuse or chiropractor to help reduce your back pain. If you would like to lose weight to reduce your back pain, start by doing core strengthening exercises because that will help improve your posture and bring your spine back to the proper alignment. Also try rolling out on the Chirp Wheel to massage your sore back muscles. While at work, make sure to take breaks from standing to relieve pain and give your muscles a break.
Problem: Eating poorly. Eating unhealthy food can cause more pain for your back because your muscles and joints aren’t getting the nutrients they need. Along with eating healthy, make sure you’re getting enough water so that your spinal discs can stay healthy and hydrated.
Solution: Eat anti-inflammatory foods. Eat food that’s good for you and your back. Some foods can help reduce inflammation and reduce back pain, such as kale, broccoli, spinach, avocados, nuts, chicken, turkey, beans, and cocoa. Including anti-inflammatory foods in your diet might help you reduce your back pain on the job.
Problem: Smoking. You knew smoking was bad for your lungs, but did you know it is also bad for your back and spine? Nicotine changes the size of your blood vessels, increasing damage to your ligaments, muscles, and spine. Smoking can also cause your spinal discs to degenerate faster, doing the opposite of healing the body by decreasing blood flow to the spine. It can also cause more inflammation, which likely means more back pain.
Solution: Try and stop. It is hard to quit smoking, especially when it is a social norm at your workplace. There is a lot of information out there about how to quit smoking. While it is hard, if it is something you want to do, there is a lot of support for you.
Problem: Stress. Sometimes stress cannot be avoided at the workplace, but did you know that it might be causing your back pain? When you’re stressed, your body releases hormones and adrenaline (caused by the fight or flight response), which increases your blood pressure and causes your muscles to tense up in case you need to run away.
Solution: Relax. Try and take time even at work to unwind and un-stress. Try bringing the Chirp Wheel+ with you to work. Take 3 minutes to roll out on the wheels to relieve some stress and have a moment to yourself. Eating healthy, exercising, stretching, and being mindful and supportive of yourself will help you reduce your stress at work and in turn reduce your back pain. Check out this blog post for more ideas on how to reduce stress.
American Association of Neurological Surgeons. (2020). Herniated disc. Retrieved from https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Herniated-Disc#:~:text=A%20herniated%20disc%20(also%20called,an%20early%20stage%20of%20degeneration
American Association of Neurological Surgeons. (2020). Low back strain and sprain. Retrieved from https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Low-Back-Strain-and-Sprain
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