Back Care Awareness Week 2023, starting from the 2nd October, is focused on back pain prevention by keeping our spines in good health. For most of us, work constitutes a significant portion of our daily lives. It’s where we invest a substantial part of our time, energy, and dedication. But did you know that the nature of our work can significantly impact our health, for better or worse? In the realm of health and well-being at work, back care is a crucial dimension that demands our attention.
In the world of back care, research has illuminated the role of psychological factors as consistent predictors of back pain. Stress, in particular, has emerged as a powerful influencer, often causing our bodies to manifest symptoms in response to the pressures of daily life. This phenomenon is known as “somatization,” wherein psychological stress leads to physical symptoms.
Workplace Stress and Its Effects on Back Health
Studies have uncovered workplace-specific psychological factors that contribute to back pain. In 2012, a study tracking 2,808 workers across 28 different organizations in Norway revealed that a lack of decision control and leadership quality were consistent predictors of back pain development. Additionally, in 2010, a study tracking 1,704 workers in Israel for three years found that burnout doubled the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders, including back pain.
Stress is a well-established predictor of back pain, and it’s essential to comprehend how it operates. Somatization is the process through which psychological stress gives rise to physical symptoms. Essentially, stress can cause your body to react differently, manifesting discomfort and pain. This process is not unusual in modern societies, where a vast majority of individuals will experience tension headaches, back pain, and other stress-induced symptoms at some point in their lives.
However, some individuals may experience severe and concurrent stress-induced symptoms, leading to a classification of “somatization disorder.” In this case, individuals have a general tendency to express stress as physical symptoms.
Top 10 Tips for Back Care
- Exercise Regularly: Engage in back-strengthening exercises such as walking, swimming (particularly backstroke), or using exercise bikes. Staying active is vital for maintaining strong back muscles.
- Stay Active, Even with Pain: Gentle walking and stretching can prevent stiffness. Avoid long periods of bed rest, as this can be counterproductive.
- Lift Smart: When lifting objects, keep them close to your body, bend your knees and hips (not your back), and never twist and bend simultaneously.
- Healthy Lifestyle: Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle to reduce the risk of back pain. Quit smoking, as it increases the likelihood of developing back pain.
- Pain Management: Use painkillers when needed to stay active. If pain persists, consult a specialist.
- Work Environment: Evaluate your workspace. In office settings, consider ergonomic adjustments. In manual labor roles, adhere to health and safety procedures.
- Choose the Right Bag: Carry items in a backpack rather than a single sling bag to distribute weight evenly.
- Posture Matters: Maintain good posture; avoid slumping in your chair, hunching over your desk, or walking with your shoulders hunched up.
- Ergonomic Seating: Use a chair with a backrest and keep your feet flat on the floor or on a footrest. Change your sitting position every few minutes.
- Communicate with Your Employer: If your back pain is work-related, discuss it with your employer or HR department. They may be able to make workplace adaptations to help manage your pain.
Recovery and Self-Help
While back pain can be distressing, the good news is that it often improves on its own within a few weeks. Extensive research has shown that bed rest is not the answer. Staying active, continuing daily activities, using anti-inflammatory medication, applying ice or heat, and engaging in specific exercises and stretches are key to recovery. What you do in the early stages of pain greatly influences your long-term outcome, and staying active and getting on with life is often the best course of action.
However, there are situations where seeking help is essential, as recommended by the NHS. If you’re experiencing persistent or severe back pain, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional. Your well-being is worth the investment, and the path to a pain-free life begins with knowledge, self-care, and seeking help when needed.
Dr. Ewa prepared for you a video with simple exercises for you if you suffer from sciatica or back pain.
Whether we are older or younger, our spines need our support. Let’s all make a difference to back health by celebrating Back Care Awareness Week 2023
Read also on our blog: