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Oh.....my back!

Oh.....my back!

How many times a week, or even a day, do you feel back pain?   

About 8 in 10 adults experience lower back pain.  Back pain is the 5th most common reason for all visits to the physician.  

Let’s first take a look at some facts about common back pain problems:

• The pain you feel may be a sharp, sudden, and obvious pang, or it may feel more like a constant, dull ache.

• Most people who experience lower back pain cannot pinpoint a specific cause or injury.  Usually, this type of pain is called non-specific lower back pain.  Such lower back pain is usually not a serious problem or the result of a disease of major injury.

• Back pain can last for a few days or even weeks or months.  Pain that lasts longer than a few months is called "chronic back pain."

 

What are some of the causes of back pain?

 

• Muscle strain

• Spasm

• Ligament sprain

• Joint problems

• Herniated disk (aka slipped disk)

• Unusual activities that put strain on your back


As back pain is the 5th leading reason for a trip to the doctor, it’s interesting to note that most patients find that their pain is a result of using their backs in an unusual activity, which put pressure or strain on it.  Common activities that cause back pain are moving, playing sports, or lifting something.

 

How do I deal with my back pain?

Now, let’s discuss various options for dealing with back pain:

 

• First, locate where your back hurts so you can rule out injury or illness.

• Next, think about what you have been doing the past few days or weeks that could have stressed your back.

Contact sports?

Helping a friend move?

Lifting furniture?

Bending awkwardly?

New exercises?

Pregnancy?

• Now, try to rest it for a few days.  That means not repeating any of the previous activities, especially exercise.  

• It could be that avoiding painful activities will alleviate back pain.  You may still want to take over-the-counter meds, such as Tylenol, to lessen the pain as you rest.

• If the pain persists, call your doctor.  It may be a hassle to schedule a visit, but your back is worth it.  Don’t take any chances.

 

Life style changes

 

Don’t worry- you should be able to keep living your life as you usually do…just with a few tweaks.  One of the best things you can do is to make ergonomic adjustments to your work station.  Since you work most days of the week, for hours at a time, it’s important to ensure that you are protecting yourself from pain and injury.

Develop new habits, starting with posture.  You should try not to slouch in your chair or sit in positions that place strain on any body part.

Your monitor should be at eye level, not above and not lower.  Looking down (which is the normal, but still not ideal position for computer work) palces undue stress on your neck and shoulders, which can affect your back.  Not looking down can be difficult with a laptop, but whether it’s a monitor or laptop, an ergonomic desk or a lift mate can elevate the screen for proper viewing.

Your keyboard and your mouse should be on the same surface and close together so that you are not overextending your reach to use either one or both.  Many workers find that using an ergonomic mini keyboard (which leaves out the numeric key pad usually on the right) helps them keep the mouse (and therefore their arms) in tighter, which helps avoid strain.

When typing, your wrists should be in a “neutral” position.  This means that you are not angling them severely.  A wrist rest can help keep your wrists loose and injury-free.

Since you sit most of the day, make sure that your chair is comfortable and helps you maintain good posture.  Alternatively, an ergonomic desk that allows you to sit or stand gives you freedom to stretch out your back and legs.  

• Regardless of your desk, chair, or work station, it’s essential that you take short breaks to stretch out your body.  Even before you notice aches and pains, try to stretch well, even if just for a few minutes.  You can even set an alarm on your watch or send yourself a reminder.

Whether it’s upper, middle, or lower back pain, even if it’s “normal” to have back pain, experiencing it is not the way life is supposed to be. You are your best ally in caring for back pain or strain.  By monitoring symptoms and making a few life style and ergonomic adjustments, you can alleviate and even avoid many stress-related injuries, like back pain.  The main thing to remember is to take care of yourself at home, work, and play by developing new habits, such as good posture and stretch breaks.