Is back pain affecting your work?

SpineUniverse.com, the sister website of the pain journal Practical Pain Management, recently conducted a survey of patients with self-reported neck or back pain for at least three months.

After surveying 606 adults from 48 states, SpineUniverse.com found that 31 percent collect disability and no longer work because of their pain, while another 21 percent continue to work and 26 percent have filed for disability in the past five years. The results also showed that many survey respondents still work despite chronic back pain, with 23 percent reporting that they work full-time. Other participants are either retired (30 percent) or had to retire early due to pain (17 percent). In worse scenarios, 36 percent of respondents lost their jobs due to chronic pain.

While the SpineUniverse poll is recent, chronic pain affecting the U.S. workforce is not new or uncommon. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pain is the number one cause of adult disability, costing $294 billion annually in lost workdays, medical expenses and other benefit costs. These expenses are especially tough when work is the cause of the pain. Even workers in non labor-intensive jobs experience chronic pain from daily strains. Luckily, there are some ways to prevent this kind of pain at work.

1. Improve your posture

If you work in front of a computer every day, you likely know how difficult it is to maintain a healthy posture at your desk. It's easy to get hunched over and contort your body in uncomfortable, unnatural positions. According to researchers at Cornell University and the Cleveland Clinic Center for Spine Health, there are a few simple ways you can adjust yourself to make sure this doesn't become the source of your pain.

  • Keep your head up
  • Keep your mouse close to your keyboard
  • Use a chair with good lumbar support
  • Sit close to your desk
  • Place both your feet on the ground

2. Take breaks

In whatever you're doing, whether it's manual labor or sitting at a desk, give yourself a break. Your body needs relief from being in the same position for so long. So, at least once an hour, get up and stretch, go to the bathroom, take a quick walk around the office. If you can't get up every hour, at the very least do some stretches and roll your shoulders. It's important to do whatever you need to alleviate that pressure on your spinal discs.

3. Listen to your body

If you're in pain, it's never a good idea to ignore it. Taking the time to treat any problems and let your body heal is important. While you might not be thrilled about taking a sick day, that one day can make a huge difference. It could mean beginning the steps to preventing chronic pain that could make working even more difficult.

Whether you're able to work or not, you should always address any discomfort in your body. If you're experiencing chronic back pain, you should schedule an appointment with a professional chiropractor today.