Talk to most people, especially those who are wise with the experience of years of work behind them and you will find many have had at least one episode of low back pain. To top it off, I’m sure we all know at least one person who unfortunately has chronic low back pain that impacts their lives daily, whether that be a family member, friend or colleague.
The reality is low back pain is one of the most, if not the most common physical injury people experience. Research tells us that as much as 80-85% of Australian’s will experience at least one episode of low back pain in their life time.
Just to re-iterate that point – 8 out of every 10 people you know will experience a low back injury.
But, I work in an office job, I should be fine? The most I ever lift is a piece of paper so I won’t get a low back injury?
That’s what we are looking at today, low back pain and the office worker.
Many people have a misbelief that because they work in an office or a “desk job” they are unlikely to experience low back pain. The reality is whilst there are low back injuries caused by high level manual labour and sport, many are caused by very innocuous activities. Our clients have report the following causing their low back injury;
- Simple gardening
- Sneezing, yes just simply sneezing
- Reaching for something (the injury happens before even lifting)
- Many injuries from lifting objects under 5kg
- Complaints of ongoing aching pain and stiffness where they have no idea where the pain comes from(sitting all day, perhaps?)
The list goes on,but the point here is that you don’t have to be shifting bags of concrete all day to get a low back injury.
But, how does the office impact your low back injury? Well it comes from what happens to your body when you sit for prolonged periods of time and it is important with this to remember that point of prolonged periods of time. When we sit, 3 key things happen to muscle areas that effect our low back:
- Our core (stomach muscles) can switch off.
- Our Hamstrings and Glutes (what you sit on) become weak and tight.
- The low back flexes/curves (see picture) placing stress on your joints, ligaments and bones.
Whilst many other things happen to our body, lets focus on these 3 areas and why they increase your risk of a low back injury?
- Your Core muscles/abdominals work to keep you upright and as a protection to your low back. Weakening of these puts your back at risk of being unguarded.
- Your Hamstrings and Glute muscles have attachments that affect your low back movements, if these muscles get too tight or weak you change the way your low back movements work. This in turn changes the forces through your low back leading to number three…
- A curved/hunched low back spine stresses the bones, ligaments and joints of the low back. This basically means your hanging off your bones and ligaments rin your back. In short more force goes through your low back setting you up for wear and tear.
That said its not all doom and gloom. Simple strategies like incorporating movement, engaging in pilates and yoga (yes there is a scientific reason as to why these have became so popular in the last decade, not just Lorna Jane’s creation of activewear) and effective office ergonomics are all simple combat tools to beat way a low back injury.
At PHW Group we have started “the movement movement” with several of our corporate partners which is all about creating innovative strategies get sedentary workers moving! Why are we so big on this though?
Because the biggest risk of a low back injury to an office worker isn’t a major prolapsed disk (though these do happen) its more the wear and tear that occurs from day in day out poor office health. Our bodies are designed to move so incrementing movement into the day benefits muscle activity, combats tightness and in turn improves the health of your back for years to come.
As always have a healthy & productive day,
- Allens Operations Pty Ltd (Aust) – Australia wide (Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane & Perth) - September 24, 2018
- Early childhood intervention Australia - August 4, 2018
- Australian Physiotherapy Association National office, Victoria - August 2, 2018