Work related back pain

There’s broadly, two kinds of back pain related to work.

1.Pain that occurs in a healthy back due to extreme force

2. Pain that occurs in an unstable back under normal load

The first category is due to accidents.
-fall from heights
-attempting to lift weights that are several times your body weight
-sudden severe, uncontrolled twisting under load
The load demand exceeds the stability resource that any normal human spine can provide. That can be called a supra physiologic load, in technical terms. That sort of back pain is mostly bad luck. The chances of that occurring can be minimised by following health and safety laws (which are non existent in India) A good substitute would be common sense. Sadly, that too is lacking in India.

I’d like to talk mainly about the second kind of back pain. That back pain is almost always the spine owner’s fault. (Yes, I’m victim blaming. Sue me!) It results from wilful abuse of a marvelous structure that is unique to our species. There are no other vertebrates that spend all their time erect on two legs.

The good news is that this self induced pain can be fixed by the spine owner themselves. It needs two basic steps.
1. Stop abusing the spine, firstly
2. Then, strengthen it and the supporting structures

Let’s talk about abuse of the spine
I’ll list that out in random order. You’ll have to fix all of those to get good results

-stop slouching at work
-stop slouching at home
-stop slouching during your commute
I have to be silly, and list them as seperate items because that’s all you’re doing. Slouching all day

-spend less time looking at screens
-interrupt your screen time every fifteen minutes, look at the horizon for a few seconds every fifteen minutes, reset your posture consciously
-fix the ergonomics of your workplace, it is your spine. It is not disposable for you. It is, however easy for your company to dispose of you, once you’re suffering from back pain. Make it *your* priority. Don’t leave it for your company to fix your ergonomics.
-move as frequently as possible, away from your chair. Ideally every half an hour. Constant low level, uninterrupted compression on the structures in and around your spine, is worse than the occasional high load compression of lifting a few boxes

-drink plenty of water. Dehydration damages intervertebral discs, ligaments and cartilage. One litre as soon as you wake up is a good practice, (for other reasons too)
-varying activities in your free time, instead of sticking to the same activity day in and day out. For eg, using a aerodynamic road bike for exercise daily, while also spending 8-10 hours at a desk job is a surefire way to blow your discs in slow motion. The fast way , as a desk Jockey, to blow your disc would be going to the gym and doing bench presses, curls, crunches and sit-ups only, because those are the only muscles you can see in the mirror.

– weight reduction/fat reduction to reduce inflammation
– improve coordination and balance to reduce risk of falls
– improve flexibility to improve your chances against a sudden unexpected load. A flexible body will respond like a rubber band. A tight one will respond like a dry twig. Please note, that the solution isn’t static stretching.
– avoid hyper mobility, which is excessive flexibility without strength in the available range of movement. Hypermobility, is the best result you can get from mindless stretching. It is better than a tight musculoskeletal system, but still, far inferior to one that is truly resilient and flexible.

-improve strength- to be better able to resist unexpected load
-improve coordination to help use that strength better and to avoid having your own strength become a liability when it is used in the wrong manner. For eg – over developed or imbalanced strength in the upper limb can cause issues in the low back or hip when engaged in throwing objects competitively or as a hobby.

-spend more time barefoot. Your feet are the foundation of your body. Weak feet means more load for the mid section of your superstructure. Similarly, a weak midsection can cause injuries in the feet, knee or ankles, because they have to compensate for the unstable center of gravity all on their own, with poor assistance from the core.

I’ve added a link to a video I made about posture, while sitting, at work. Have a look and see if it helps.

-questions? Doubts? Corrections? Please let me know in the comments.

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