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Beaver Medical Group

The Choice of the Inland Empire Since 1945

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Preventing Back Pain

April 01, 2008

Pam Schroeder, RN
Health Education

Preventing aches, pains and injuries

Whether it's dull and annoying or screaming for attention, back pain can make it hard to concentrate on work. Many jobs including nursing and office work can worsen back pain if we allow risky habits to develop.

Pain and stiffness in your back can keep you from being productive and decrease your ability to really focus on your job. Here are a few tips to help make sure back pain doesn't keep you from being your best.

Force. You might face injury if you frequently lift or move heavy objects. Many people don't think twice about stooping to lift a large object. However, lifting an object improperly can cause injury to the back.

As you lean down, bend your knees and keep your back straight. When you begin lifting, keep the object close to your body and let your legs do all the work. Remember to recruit help if a load is too heavy.

Be fit. Maintaining a healthy weight minimizes force on the back. Along with aerobic exercise, do specific strengthening and stretching exercises. These are called "core strengthening" because they target both your abdominal and back muscles. Strong and flexible muscles are your best bet for keeping your back in shape.

Repetition. Performing a certain movement over many times can lead to muscle fatigue or injury. Look at the setup of your work area. Think about how you could modify repetitive tasks. If you're on the phone, most of the day, try a headset. Avoid cradling the phone between your shoulder and your ear. Avoid unnecessary bending, twisting and reaching. Take a 30-second timeout every 15 to 20 minutes to stretch and change positions. If your back hurts, stop activities that aggravate it.

Posture. Posture refers to your position when sitting, standing or performing a task. If, for instance, you spend most of your time in front of a computer, you may experience occasional aches and pains from sitting still for too long. On average, your body can tolerate being in one position for about 20 minutes before you feel the need to adjust.

If you stand for long periods of time, rest one foot on a stool or small box from time to time. Hold reading material at eye level. Don't bend forward to do desk work or hand work.

If your chair doesn't support your lower back, place a rolled towel or small pillow behind the curve in your lower back. Adjust your chair so that your feet stay flat on the floor.

Think twice before wearing high heels. High heels force you to stand in an unnatural position which causes stress on the back.

Stress. Pressures at work or at home can increase your stress level and lead to muscle tension and tightness, which may in turn lead to back pain and make you more prone to injury. Try to develop some coping mechanisms to relieve stress such as deep breathing exercises, taking a walk around the block or talking about your problems with a trusted friend.