1 in 4 American Workers Struggles With Back Pain

1 in 4 American Workers Struggles With Back Pain

MONDAY, May 13, 2019 (HealthDay News) — If your back aches while on the job, you have plenty of company: New research shows that nearly 40 million American workers suffer from chronic lower back pain.

In all, that’s more than a quarter of the workforce reporting lower back pain severe enough to affect their ability to work. As striking as these findings are, the researchers believe that many more workers suffer from lower back pain than the study captured.

“A lot of the cases of back pain have been attributed to work, but most workers haven’t even discussed with their doctor whether it might be related to work,” said lead author Dr. Sara Luckhaupt, a medical officer at the U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

In addition, many workers miss work because of the pain or change jobs because of it, she said.

Luckhaupt said that both men and women reported suffering from lower back pain. Sufferers were more likely to be 45 to 64. Obesity can also contribute to lower back pain, she added.

The greatest number of workers with lower back pain worked in construction, building maintenance and grounds cleaning, Luckhaupt said, “so, jobs that require a lot of manual labor.”

In addition, people whose jobs requires lifting, pulling or standing reported more lower back pain, Luckhaupt said.

One specialist said it’s difficult to determine if someone’s lower back pain is really work-related.

“Work environment can worsen back pain, but often it’s difficult to assign causative factors to the back pain in the absence of a specific incident,” said Dr. Qusai Hammouri, an orthopedic surgeon at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City.

“So, it’s difficult to say if work caused your back pain, or you had back pain and then it got worse as you worked more,” said Hammouri, who wasn’t involved with the research.

For the study, Luckhaupt and her colleagues surveyed more than 19,000 adults in 2015. The participants were asked whether they had lower back pain and if it was work-related, and whether their pain affected their work.

More than a quarter of those surveyed (26%) said they suffered from lower back pain. Extrapolating the data, the researchers determined that represents nearly 40 million workers.

The report was published online May 13 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Another expert not part of the study says back pain can be made worse by repeat motions.

“Pain in the back in working-age adults who are otherwise well occurs without a violent precipitant and is exacerbated by motion of the low back,” said Dr. Nortin Hadler, an emeritus professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Hadler added that this kind of pain is not necessarily work-related. “It can start in workers when not at work and persists outside work,” he said.

For example, it can be difficult to lift a package, whether in the warehouse, or “in the crib [such as a baby] — where the ‘package’ has no handles and squirms,” Hadler said.

Luckhaupt said that treating lower back pain often involves several kinds of treatment, including physical therapy and painkillers.

She added that often pain can be controlled with nonopioid painkillers.

“Most importantly, workers with back pain should talk with their employers to see if there are things that they can do to make the work healthier,” Luckhaupt said.

More information

Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more on back pain in the workplace.

SOURCES: Sara Luckhaupt, M.D., M.P.H., medical officer, U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cincinnati; Nortin Hadler, M.D., emeritus professor, medicine and microbiology/immunology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Qusai Hammouri, M.D., orthopedic surgeon, Staten Island University Hospital, New York City; May 13, 2019, Annals of Internal Medicine, onlineCopyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

An Expert’s Guide to Avoiding Back Pain

An Expert’s Guide to Avoiding Back Pain

THURSDAY, Oct. 25, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Back pain is a common problem in the United States, but there are ways to protect yourself, an expert says.

“The back is a complex structure with many delicate parts, but with good judgment and healthy lifestyle habits — including proper lifting, good posture and exercise — it’s possible to avoid common back pain caused by strained muscles,” said Dr. Lawrence Lenke. He is director of spinal deformity surgery at the Spine Hospital at New York-Presbyterian in New York City.

For more complicated spinal problems such as scoliosis, stenosis, fractures or injuries, medical intervention is usually necessary, Lenke said.

“But each person with or without spinal problems can benefit from adopting healthier lifestyle habits to keep your spine as strong as possible,” he said.

Lenke offered this advice:

  • Maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke, do stretching and strengthening exercises that increase back and abdomen flexibility, and get regular cardiovascular exercise. If your job involves a lot of sitting, get up and walk around every 15 to 30 minutes.
  • Maintain good posture even while sitting. Don’t slouch or hold your head too far forward. Be sure your feet are supported, hips are level with or slightly above the knees and your spine is slightly reclined. There should be a small arch in the lower back.
  • When sitting at a computer, your shoulders should be relaxed and away from the ears. Your elbows should be at the sides, bent to about 90 degrees, and your wrists should be neutral — not bent up, down or away from each other. Your head should face ahead without being too far forward.
  • When using a mobile device for non-voice activities, hold it up instead of bending your neck to look down. At just 45 degrees, the work your neck muscles are doing is equal to lifting a 50-pound bag of potatoes.
  • When lifting, make sure objects are properly balanced and packed correctly so weight won’t shift. Keep the weight close to your body. And take your time. Bend at the hips and knees and use your legs to lift. Maintain proper posture with your back straight and head up.

More information

The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has more on preventing back pain.

SOURCE: New York-Presbyterian Hospital, news release, Oct. 16, 2018

Health Tip: Change Poor Posture

Health Tip: Change Poor Posture

Health Tip: Change Poor Posture

(HealthDay News) — Everyone has back pain at some point, whether due to poor posture, heavy lifting, a spinal condition present a birth, or an exercise-related injury.

While other triggers for back pain may not be as easy to prevent, poor posture is a relatively easy fix.

Harvard Medical School suggests how:

  • By imagining good posture, you can help create it. Imagine a straight line passing through your body from ceiling to floor (the ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles line up vertically).
  • Sit up straight with hands resting on your thighs. Keep your shoulders down and your chin level. Slowly draw your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of five; relax. Repeat three or four times.
  • Stand facing a corner with your arms raised, hands flat against the walls, elbows at shoulder height. Place one foot ahead of the other. Bending your forward knee, exhale as you lean your body toward the corner. Keep your back straight and your chest and head up. Hold this position for about 30 seconds. Relax.
  • Raise your right arm to shoulder level in front of you and bend the arm at the elbow, keeping the forearm parallel to the floor. Grasp the right elbow with your left hand and gently pull it across your chest so you feel a stretch in the upper arm and shoulder on the right side. Hold for 20 seconds; relax both arms. Repeat three times on each side.
Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Low Back Pain? These Exercises May Help

Low Back Pain? These Exercises May Help

THURSDAY, Aug. 30, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Low back pain is a common health complaint. And if it sidelines you for too long, it can lead to weight gain, a loss in your fitness level and keep you from doing things you love.

But not moving isn’t the answer — specific exercises can help you get back to everyday activities. If you’re under the care of an orthopedist or physical therapist, you may be given a series of exercises to do up to three times a day.

Here are three in particular that may help.

Tummy contractions. Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor hip-width apart, and your hands on your tummy below your ribcage. Tighten your abs — it should feel as though your ribcage is being pressed toward your back. Hold for five seconds, then relax. Repeat 10 times.

Knee-to-chest stretch. Begin in the same starting position, but for this exercise, place both hands on the back of your left thigh and gently pull the knee to your chest. Hold for 20 seconds, then relax. Repeat five times with the left leg, then switch to the right leg and repeat the entire sequence.

Body stretch sequence. Sit on a large exercise ball with knees bent at a 90-degree angle to the floor. Move your feet slightly out to the sides for balance. First, lift your left arm straight up over your head, then lower it and repeat with the right arm; alternate five times. Next, slowly raise and lower your left heel, then slowly raise and lower your right heel; alternate five times. Finally, raise your left arm overhead and your right heel off the floor at the same time, lower them and reverse, raising your right arm overhead and lifting your left heel off the floor; alternate five times.

Another type of exercise that may help is yoga. According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, people who took a weekly class designed for those with low back pain were helped just as much as those who did traditional physical therapy, and needed less pain medication over time.

More information

The University of California, Berkeley, has detailed information on low back pain and more exercises that can help ease it.

Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Health Tip: Prevent Back Pain at Work

Health Tip: Prevent Back Pain at Work

(HealthDay News) — Chronic back pain makes it more difficult to do your job, whether you’re behind a desk or operating heavy machinery.

The Mayo Clinic suggests how to avoid back pain at work:

  • Maintain good posture.
  • Lift with your legs and tighten your core muscles, and avoid twisting.
  • When possible, use a lifting device.
  • Alternate physically demanding tasks with less demanding ones.
  • Limit the time you spend carrying heavy briefcases, purses or bags.
  • Listen to your body. Change your position often and periodically walk around and stretch your muscles.
Copyright ©2017 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
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