It’s National ‘Safe work month’ this October, so create some healthier work habits that your back will thank you for with some ‘physio approved’ advice.
On any given day in Australia, one quarter of our population is suffering some degree of back pain, and nearly 80 per cent of adults in Australia will experience back pain at some time during their lives.
Are you among them?
Research by the University of Sydney found that one third of all work related disability, world-wide, was from low back pain linked to workplace factors.
So I’ve teamed up with the Workscore’s Wellhub team to bring you some simple steps to combat back pain while you work!
If you sit at a desk a lot, you really must move often. Moving for 2 minutes every half hour is the gold standard. But that doesn’t mean you have to get up from your desk!
Try doing some pelvic tilts to loosen your low back; tucking your tailbone under, then tilting it in the air again. Repeat 10 or 20 times.
Then try tilting from side to side, lifting one butt cheek off and then the other 10-20 times.
When you’re finished tilting, make sure you’ve wedged your buttock right back in the chair.This way, your pelvis and low back is more supported and your back muscles can relax.
Perching on the edge of your chair or crossing your legs are among the ‘posture sins’ of sitting and also place extra load on your back.
I therefore suggest you set a timer to move (doing your pelvic tilts or other ‘workstation workout exercises’) every half hour, then make sure you wiggle yourself right back in the chair when you’ve finished.
If you stand a lot of the day, you’re also highly likely to get an achy back and maybe even sore legs.
If you’re indoors, standing in the one place a lot (say, at a reception desk), you may find a rubber mat helps take some strain off your back and legs.
Another option that’s handy is to use a low footrest (like the ones you’d put under a traditional desk), to rest one leg on at a time.
When you stand in a split stance, with one foot forwards and one back, you change up your weight distribution. This uses different muscles and allows your legs to absorb the load of standing better. It’s easy, then, to switch legs when you get a bit tired.
You can even try doing some small lunges forwards onto the step to wake your muscles up and boost your circulation.
Calf raises and mini-squats can also be simple and effective in helping your circulation and switching muscles back on. This stimulates the muscles that support your spine and help you stand for longer pain-free!
Doing pelvic tilts forwards and backwards while you’re standing is also a simple way to keep your low back/ pelvis flexible and reduce pain.
If you’re doing a fair bit of manual work, you’re probably familiar with using good lifting techniques…
Making sure you have load close to your body, below waist height where possible and bending at the hips and knees- rather than your back- are all essential ‘rules’ to keep in mind when you’re lifting and carrying.
But if you find your knees aren’t up to the task, or you’re lifting or bending repeatedly, it can be really helpful to use a ‘split stance’. Like with standing, having one foot forwards and one back helps you generate most force from your powerful leg and hip muscles.
This means it’s easier to protect your back, and is also easier on your knees and ankles than a straight squat. Plus, you’ll really benefit from doing the exercises mentioned above to condition your back and legs for your work.
Then, next time you need to reach or bend or lift (at home or work), try a ‘split stance’!
Do you feel back pain at work?
Click here for a FREE mini-consult with Physiotherapist Kym Siddons so you can chat about it!