Low Back Pain – Are You at Risk
Any working individual considers the daunting low back pain as a serious problem. This particular type of back injury is common to both blue and white collar workers. Although the causes of lower back pain have been pinpointed by modern medical science, there are a number of individual factors which also contribute to, and influence the development of temporary and eventually permanent low back pain. Keeping yourself away from low back pain, or taking measures at the first sign of lower back pain is essential in avoiding many health problems later on in life.
In general, low back pain is usually caused by a combination of environmental and physical factors. A research conducted with the consensual participation of North American male and female employees has confirmed the theory that lower back pain develops when certain demographic, physical, occupational and psychological factors are present in an individual.
The most common physical factors which usually contribute to developing lower back pain are:
- bad posture of the upper body and waist;
- repetitive movement of upper limbs, including neck;
- Non-ergonomic work facilities and conditions.
The fact that most people who suffer from lower back pain, have developed or experienced first signs of the problem at work, or while working tends to make it an occupational injury. Occupational or work related injuries are an issue for any country, and should be addressed very seriously. The problem is quite serious, as statistical research and medical tests have shown that nearly three quarters of all working individuals will experience lower back pain at some stage of their career, furthermore – nearly half of all working individuals are likely to develop permanent or chronic back pain, as in many instances the issue is ignored or disregarded as just another temporary ache from working too much.
When Short Term Pain Becomes Chronic
The time it takes for short term lower back pain to become chronic, or even permanent, varies from person to person, and from occupation to occupation. Generally, medical and occupational research has suggested that it takes about four to five years from first signs of low back pain to develop into a chronic or permanent back injury. Ignoring the problem, or not dealing with first signs of low back pain timely is the prevalent reason why short term back aches become chronic back pain, and can eventually lead to permanent back injuries.
Consequences of Not Dealing with the Problem
The consequences of ignoring, downgrading and disregarding lower back pain in working individuals are very serious, and will multiply over a wide spread of the population and economy of a given country. How so? Blue or white collar workers who are suffering from short term back pain tend to ignore the issue, as something small and insignificant. When the problem is left unattended for too long, the pain and suffering of affected workers grows. Physically, low back pain can have a detrimental effect on the peripheral nerve system, ligaments, muscles, and even cause certain spinal cord deformities later on in life. Social and economic consequences are very evident and easily confirmed. A person suffering from acute lower back pain will be much less productive and unmotivated than other workers. More so, poor work performance and the great deal of physical suffering transfers home, and family members also begin to suffer from social disadvantages, as the person suffering cannot provide effectively for their family, thus they are experiencing downward or reverse social integration.
Economic and Employment Issues Stemming From Lower Back Pain
A workforce suffering from chronic aches and constant pain is an inefficient and unproductive labour resource. An increasing number of working age individuals who are not able to participate effectively in the workforce will be a strain for the social welfare system of any country. However, this is something which can be prevented and avoided by joining efforts on behalf of employers, workers and medical support organisations.
Preventing and avoiding Low Back Pain At Work
Dealing with a major problem such as this one is no easy task, and will take some effort on behalf of employers and employees.
- By law, an employer is required to provide each and every staff member with adequate work facilities and conditions which allow them to do their daily duties without having to suffer physically in any way or form. In most instances this means improvement of ergonomics in the immediate working environment i.e. the office for example. However, improvements must be made after specialised consultation with experts.
- Any employee who is going through such physical suffering and trauma at work should speak out and inform their employer of the situation. A worker who has developed or is experiencing first signs of lower back pain, should inform their employer or onsite medical officer. Measures should be taken immediately as timely prevention is the only way to avoid further complications and more pain and suffering.
NB: If a given employer is turning a blind eye, or disregarding the suggested work condition improvements set forth by staff, the employee in question has every legal right to consult with a workers compensation lawyer and take matters further. However, if a person is a member of a workers syndicate or another type of labour organisation, they must be informed first.
What You Can Do For Yourself
Timely prevention is the only certain way to avoid, or at least minimise the effects of low back pain. Workers who are starting to experience the initial symptoms, or have been experiencing back pain for a period of time shouldn’t overlook the problem but consult with their medical practitioner as soon as possible.
If the problem hasn’t progressed to its acute stages, a set of physical exercises done on a daily basis can have a huge positive difference on back pain, or help employees avoid lower back pain altogether.
Putting prevention into practice
- Take the time to adjust properly your office chair, your computer screen, possibly your work desk. The same applies to your car seat, especially if you drive more than fifteen – twenty minutes, to and from work each day.
- Take regular breaks, even five minutes of walking around or stretching shoulders, back and waist can make all the difference. Do this gently and gradually though – avoid sharp or sudden moves after long time of repetitive body motion.
- Task variation is a good way to reduce the chance of developing temporary or chronic back pain.
Photo Credit: Flickr/Andreanna Moya Photography