Taking Care of Your Back at Work

Having back pain at work is fairly common. But there are ways to adjust your workspace and habits that may ease the pain.

By Mary Armstrong, Contributing Writer

If you have an aching back, you’re not alone. About a quarter of American adults have at least a day of back pain in a three-month period, according to the National Institutes of Health. It’s one of the most common medical problems. It’s also a leading cause of job-related disability and work absences.

You might think that most workers who have back trouble are those who do heavy lifting on the job. But back pain is common among workers who sit for a long time each day. Stress and poor posture can make the condition worse.

If your job demands a lot of sitting each day, there are things you can do that may help prevent back pain:

Have a healthy lifestyle
To prevent back pain, a good place to start is by managing your weight, not smoking and exercising regularly. It’s especially important to do exercises that strengthen your back muscles. However, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program or changing your physical activity.

Good nutrition counts: Getting enough calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D aids new bone growth.

It’s also best to sleep on your side, and on a firm surface.

Change your work station
Your chair should be a quality swivel chair that lets you work without constantly twisting your back. It should have an adjustable seat, back rest and arm rests. It should also have a five-legged base and casters that are appropriate for the floor. It should have good support for your lower back, or lumbar area. A pillow or rolled-up towel can provide extra lumbar support. You may want to use a chair with a seat that tilts forward.

Get up and move