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Back care

Updated: Mar 7, 2022

Millions of people are affected by back pain every day. Back pain can diminish your quality of life, causing you to miss work and social activities that you enjoy and preventing you from being able to accomplish everyday tasks.

Why is the lower back so prone to injury?

Your back and spine have a heavy job holding you up all day. Even simple movements can cause back pain. Lifting heavy objects, twisting, or making sudden movements are the main reasons why the lower back is subject to injury.

They can cause muscles or ligaments to stretch and, over time, poor posture or repetitive stress can also lead to muscle strain or other soft tissue problems.

Up to 80% of people will suffer from back or neck pain during their lives, and 50% of the working population will experience back or neck pain symptoms at least once per year.

Taking care of your spine

  • Lift right- It's easy to twist the wrong way and damage your spine if you don't use an appropriate manual handing technique when lifting an object.

  • Maintain a good posture- Avoid slumping in your chair, hunching over a desk, or walking with your shoulders hunched. Make a conscious effort to maintain a good posture.

  • Stretch out- Keeping flexible helps maintain normal joint function and a good range of motion. It also reduces the risk of injury. If you start your day with a few good stretches, it can not only be invigorating, but can also promote spinal health.

  • Stop smoking- Research suggests smoking reduces the blood supply to the discs between the vertebrae, and this may lead to these discs degenerating.

  • Reduce Stress- Stress is a major cause of back pain. Learn relaxation techniques such as breathing exercise to help manage stress.

  • Stay active- You're at an increased risk of experiencing low back pain if you're not active or physically fit.

  • Maintain a healthy weight- Being overweight/obese are risk factors for low back pain. Excess weight, especially belly fat, can put added stress on the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your lower back.

  • Pay attention to any warning signs- Don't ignore spinal problems or pain. Although it’s common to have back pain once in a while, it can indicate a more serious problem. Left untreated, problems with your spine can worsen and become quite serious.

A man with his hands on his lower back symbolising back pain.
One of the biggest causes of back injury is lifting or handling objects incorrectly.

How to take care of your back at work

Check your workstation set up

If you work with computers regularly, ask your employer for a DSE assessment to make sure your chair, desk and equipment suit your needs and are set up correctly.

Workstation factors that can affect your back include:

  • seating posture

  • computer screen position

  • chair height

  • keyboard position

  • mouse position

  • desk equipment layout

Lift safely

One of the biggest causes of back injury is lifting or handling objects incorrectly.

Key points for lifting safely:

  • plan your lift

  • start in a stable position

  • keep the load close to your waist

  • keep your back as straight as possible

  • avoid twisting your back or leaning sideways

  • avoid lifting heavy loads

  • push heavy objects, don't pull them

  • distribute the weight evenly

Take regular breaks

Whether you’re sitting or standing all day, take breaks from your usual posture. Frequent short breaks are better for your back than a few long ones. It gives the muscles a chance to relax while others take the strain. This can prevent your back becoming stiff and tense. An opportunity to have a break can be simple, such as getting a drink, going for some fresh air, filing or photocopying.

When to seek help

It is important to seek help as soon as you notice that something has changed or seems different. Experts can help you to identify the source of the problem and provide treatment and advice for prevention and management. If you experience any of the following then you should seek immediate attention:

  • Loss of bowel/bladder function

  • Pain accompanied by dizziness, double vision, difficulty speaking or swallowing, difficulty walking or nausea

  • After a trauma such as an accident, slip/fall, motor vehicle accident

  • Loss of coordination and or clumsiness in extremities

  • Pain that is severe, constant, getting worse or does not improve

  • Pain that is worse at night and/or accompanied by night sweats

  • Pain/numbness/tingling that goes into the arm or down the leg.

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Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

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