Did you know that back pain is responsible for millions of lost work days and millions more in health care costs each year? It’s true! Trailing only the common cold, back pain is the second most common cause for missing work, and eight out of ten people are estimated to have back pain at some point in their lives. Pretty crazy stuff, right?
You know what’s crazier? A lot of the back pain responsible for all of these sick days, actually originates at work. “Makes sense,” I bet you’re saying to yourself. After all, from construction to furniture delivery and everything in between, there are thousands of physically demanding careers. Surely it is the employees of these physically intensive jobs dealing with all of that chronic back pain, right?
Nope! While people who work in physically demanding jobs may be more likely to experience a serious back injury, when it comes to chronic back pain (pain that lasts more than three months) it is actually more likely to be office workers feeling the effects. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. There are a number of reasons for this. For starters, people working for delivery companies, in warehouses and in other similar occupations understand the inherent risks to their back the job presents and deal with this accordingly. Supervisors and training staff will typically teach their employees the proper method of lifting, so as not to injure their back. Some workers will even wear special belts designed explicitly to avoid becoming afflicted with back pain!
Eyebrows might be raised if a worker clocked in at the insurance company or sales office with a special lifting belt, but that doesn’t mean that office workers should ignore their back health! And any supervisors who might be reading this – please take the time to educate your employees on back health. It will help them, but it will also benefit you, in terms of increased productivity and a happier work force.
While workers in physical jobs are typically active, office workers often spend hours at a time in a static, sedentary position, which furthers the risk of chronic back pain.
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Neuroscientists from prestigious institutions including Harvard, Stanford and McGill
Universities have released studies claiming that this type of chronic pain can harm more than just your body, altering brain functions, impairing attention and affecting short term memory, judgement and social skills. A Harvard Medical Center report stated that chronic pain can even contribute to mood disorders, including depression, anxiety, sleeping difficulties and coping skills. This can harm relationships with coworkers, not to mention friends and family.
There are a number of simple ways to combat office related chronic back pain, from adjusting chairs to staying active. In our next post, we will look further at the office specific causes of chronic back pain, as well as some effective ways to avoid them.