When you’re in pain, getting through the work day can be difficult. Back pain, particularly in the low back, is one of the most common types of pain people experience in the United States. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, about one in four adults experience at least one day of pain in a three-month period. Additionally, did you know there are millions of people who work and deal with chronic pain? According to the American Chronic Pain Association, it’s estimated that 13 percent of the total workforce had a loss in productive time during a two-week period due to a common pain condition. If you are dealing with pain, there likely have been days you’ve missed work resulting in unproductivity for both you and your employer.
If you have a job that requires physical labor, your work may be part of what caused your pain in the first place. Many people get injured at work from picking up heavy objects, lifting things improperly, accidents and more. It can be challenging to keep up with the physical demand your job puts on your body if you are experiencing pain. On the other hand, if you have chronic pain and are in an office job, the lack of movement throughout the day can also take its toll on your spine. Whether you sit for most of the day or your job requires physical activity, we’re here to provide you with tips for how you can manage your pain to avoid time out of the office, prevent added medical expenses, and just generally feel better while at work.
1.) Advocate for Yourself
One of the best things you can do for yourself is advocate for your health and speak to your employer about your condition. Whether your pain is chronic or short-term due to an injury, it’s important to let your boss and human resources know about it. If everyone is aware of what’s going on, you can ask for things you need, such as additional breaks to walk and stretch, a special desk setup and so on. Depending on the type of pain you have, ergonomic tools like special office chairs, hand rests, foot rests, keyboard trays, and telephone headsets might help, and your employer may be able to provide you with these items. Having a note from your doctor explaining your condition and his or her recommendations will help your employer better understand what will get you through the workday.
2.) Stand While You Work
If you are working in an office environment, sitting all day can be harmful to your spine even if you don’t have pain issues. Excessive sitting can contribute to back pain and has been associated with chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity and more. Standing more each day can tone muscles, improve posture, increase blood flow, ramp up metabolism and burn extra calories as noted by JustStand.org. if you have more extreme pain and health issues, you may want to ask your workplace to consider investing in a standing desk for you. These types of workspaces tend to be costly, so you may need to put together a case for your employer. Studies do show the investment of a standing desk can offset its cost over time so it likely will be worth it in a short amount of time.
3.) Maintain Good Posture
We all know we are supposed to maintain good posture when sitting, but when you’re working at a desk, you may often find yourself hunched over your laptop, mobile phone, etc. This can cause additional stress on your spine and make any neck or back pain worse. While it’s easy to get distracted with your work obligations, it’s important to think about your position throughout the day. Try writing yourself a post-it note and keep on your computer as a reminder to keep your back straight. If you suffer from back pain, an ergonomic chair would be ideal to use for the workday. You can also use an exercise ball for 30 minute increments to break up the amount of time you are sitting still. If your job is more physical, it’s also important to keep good posture while standing and lifting objects. When carrying anything heavy, maintain an upright posture and bend at the knees and hips vs. bending over. Maintaining proper posture may seem simple, but this small change can make a big difference when it comes to managing your pain.
4.) Exercise and Stretch at Work and Outside of Work
Not surprisingly, research shows that one of the most effective ways to improve quality of life for people pain, joint inflammation and other disorders is exercise. When suffering from pain, it’s important to take time out of your day to perform small exercises and stretches and get up to walk around as often as you can. Something that can be helpful with chronic pain or disorders like osteoarthritis is chair yoga, which is essentially modified yoga poses that you can perform while sitting. This can be a nice way to get some stretches in without receiving strange looks from your coworkers. To offset the amount of sitting you may do at an office job, it’s also important to stay active outside of work. If you can make time to go for a walk or do an evening yoga class, it can help you to feel better after a day of sitting or doing physical labor. Being tired after a long workday is understandable, but if you come home and spend the evening on the couch, your pain may feel worse. That being said, make sure to always consult with your doctor on the appropriate types of exercises you should be doing based on your condition.
5.) Work with a Professional
Whether you think your pain is temporary due to an injury or you have chronic pain, it’s important to seek help from a professional. Working with a chiropractor and/or physical therapist can help you to get better faster as they can advise you on the types of movements you should or should not be doing based on your individual pain issues. They can show you the types of exercises and stretches to perform while at work and can give you advice for your specific situation. They may also suggest other alternative treatments to help you manage your pain, such as massage therapy or acupuncture. Alliance Orthopedics offers a multi-disciplinary approach so our team of board-certified medical doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists and acupuncturists can work together to create a customized plan for your pain management.