Is Your Job a Pain in the Back?
Your project is late, your phone won't stop ringing, and your back is acting up again. If that scenario sounds entirely too typical, your stressful work life may be a key cause of your aching back.
Preventing Back Pain continued...
Maintaining good health overall helps reduce the risk of
developing back pain from stress or any other cause. This means performing
regular back and abdominal muscle exercises, not smoking, and keeping your
weight within a healthy range. Stretch before any physical activity. As we age,
the risk of developing back injuries increases, so men over the age of 45 or 50
need to be especially careful about keeping fit.
"Just getting overweight and out of shape is the No. 1
cause of back symptomatology," says Delamarter. "The majority of back
and neck problems that surface when stress brings them on are due to
deconditioning. ... It's very unusual to have a patient who does 200 sit-ups a
day come into a doctor's office complaining of back pain."
When stress is a major contributing factor to your pain, you
need to reduce the tension in your life. Often, stress at work can't be
avoided, so you must figure out a way not to let it get the better of you.
"In terms of psychological stress, any type of relaxation
therapy that you feel comfortable doing [can be helpful]," says Girardi.
"[You can also try] taking time to be outside, listening to music, or doing
recreational activities on a regular basis, not just once every few
For severe stress, you may need professional guidance. Both
pain management experts and mental health professionals, such as psychologists
or psychiatrists, can help.
Regular exercise is very important for maintaining back health
not only because it keeps your muscles strong and your back well supported, but
also because it's a great stress buster.
Stephen says his back pain almost disappears when he runs
regularly and lifts weights. "I think the exercise helps because it's good
for my back and also because it reduces my stress levels," he says.
Similarly, Susan has found that one of the best ways of dealing
with her back pain is to swim three miles a week.
And all you employers out there, heed Heaney's advice about
keeping the work place light on stress.
"We need to pay attention to work organization factors that
may be causing psychosocial stress, [such as] time pressure, needing to
concentrate really intensity for long periods of time, or interpersonal
conflict," she says. "What I suggest for any employer is to take a look
at what are the stressors in their organization that are causing people
psychological distress. If those stressors can be reduced, not only will you
have happier employees and better morale, but it is also likely that you will
be reducing the risk for low back pain."