Back pain at Work – How do you prevent it?

The Labour Work Force Survey in the UK estimates that work-related musculoskeletal disorders contribute to 30% of all work-related injuries. Nearly half a million cases are reported annually with a loss of close to 9 million working days.

Back pain at Work | Back Injury at Work | Mangattil Rajesh | Spine Surgeon London |

There are some things you can do to help prevent back pain and injury. It is not that back pain is caused mostly by heavy lifting, but sitting at your desk all day and making repetitive movements can also cause back pain and injury. It is rather difficult to concentrate on your work due to the distraction for the back pain.

3 Main causes:

1) Bad posture due to inactivity

2) Repetitive movements of the spine

3) Poor Manual Handling techniques

1) Bad posture due to inactivity:

Back pain at work | Bad posture due to inactivity | Mangattil Rajesh | Spine Surgeon London

When we sit on a chair with a desk all day, we tend to ignore how we sit leading to work place injury. In other words we neglect our posture whether it is in the UK, london or anywhere in the world. The muscles ligaments and bones of your lower back are put in a position of comfort. This position of comfort is not so helpful for our lower back. We all notice that we hunch when we sit in a lazy position. Over time, this becomes a habit and we develop a bad posture.

Bad posture puts a lot of strain on our muscles and ligaments as they are not well aligned and out of balance. Initially, we do not feel the stretch or the pain, as our body has immense capability to adapt to such postures. But as time goes on, the tissues of our back undergoes small tears and these tears cause inflammation.

What happens next is very interesting. The injured and inflamed tissues releases chemicals that irritates the nerves around the spine. The muscles and tissues go into spasm. This causes low back pain.

2) Repetitive movements of the spine:

Back pain at work | Back pain from repeated movements of the spine | Mangattil Rajesh | Spine Surgeon London

Back pain worsens due to repeated movements of the spine. A job at the checkout in the UK, london or anywhere in the world for example is the sitting job and in addition to sitting for a long time, it also involves lifting weights and twisting at the same time. This is like taking a towel and twisting it repeatedly. We all know that these repeated movements will eventually tear the towel.

This is what exactly happens to the soft cushions between the bones of your spine called discs. These discs eventually rupture and prolapses causing a ‘disc prolapse’.  The soft tissues around your spine also get injured and inflamed. This injured and inflamed soft tissues and disc releases chemicals that irritates the nerves around your spine causing low back pain.

In the initial stages when you are young, your tissues are fresh and healthy. Your body has the capacity to repair the tissue injury and inflammation very quickly. As age advances the ability of your body to repair the inflammation decreases. The damage caused to these discs, ligaments, joints and tissues of your spine become permanent.

3) Poor Manual Handling Techniques:

Back pain at work | Back pain from poor manual handling techniques | Mangattil Rajesh | Spine Surgeon London

Poor manual handling techniques are the major cost for Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSD). According to current estimates there are around 500,000 WRMSDs reported each year in the UK alone. This is around 35% of the total work related injuries. 6.6 million working days are lost each year due to WRMSDs. Those who work in agriculture, transportation, construction health and social work in the UK are at risk of WRMSDs

WRMSDs are caused by poor manual handling practices that involves twisting turning and bending the back. Lifting heavy loads,  stretching into hard to reach areas and working in a cramped environment. Symptoms of WRMSD range from mild Uncomfortable to severely disabling. This is the main cause of work place disability in the UK. These symptoms range from:

  • Dull low back aches that goes away with rest
  • General body ache
  • Stiffness in your body
  • Reduction in Body movements
  • Feeling of fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance

These are the 5 simple steps to prevent back pain at your place of work. These are modifications that you must pay some attention to prevent back pain and sickness absences due to back pain at work.

5 steps to prevent Back pain at work | Mangattil Rajesh | Spine Surgeon London

1) Monitor your Monitor:

Make sure that your Monitor is at the same level of your head.

  • Top of the monitor at the same height of the top of your head.
  • This can help prevent a stiff neck

Tilt your Monitor such that it is comfortable to your eyes.

  • Eye strain can cause headache and neck pain
  • This is due to focussing on the screen at the wrong angle.
  • Keep the Monitor at the distance that feels comfortable to you.
  • This gives easy readability with less stress on your eyes and neck

2) Check your items on the table:

Keep all the items that you very frequently use close to your reach

  • We tend to stretch our back and neck muscles to reach out in a hurry
  • Reaching out to those commonly used items repeatedly will result in muscle fatigue
  • As we do this quickly, it stretches our muscles in an unnatural way causing pain and injury.

3) Where are your shoulders and arms?

Your both shoulder and arms must be in a relaxed posture

  • Your shoulder must be in a relaxed position as close to the head rest
  • Try not to bring your shoulder to the front
  • This will tighten the muscles and tissues in front of your shoulder

Hang both your arms by the side with your elbow close to your body

  • The height of the table can be adjusted so that your elbow is bent at 90′
  • Your hands can then rests comfortably on the table
  • This relaxes all the muscles of shoulder, arm and hands

4) Keep your back supported:

Adjust your back rest that makes you feel comfortable and supported

  • Use a pillow if necessary
  • Lean back and make sure that your whole back touches the chair

Look at the distance between the table and chair

  • Adjust this distance to be comfortable
  • Do not have to lean forward to reach your table.
  • Take care of your posture

5) Your feet must be flat on the floor:

Look at the height of your chair

  • Height of the chair adjusted so that both your feet are flat on the floor
  • This helps to keep your hips and knees bent at a 90 degree angle
  • Your hips, knees and leg muscles must be relaxed
  • This helps to reduce fatigue and strain on your back
5 steps to prevent Back pain at work | Mangattil Rajesh | Spine Surgeon London