Back to Work?

Topic Overview

Getting back to work with low back pain depends on what your day is usually like. But there are some basics that apply to everyone.

Moving keeps your back muscles strong, which can help your back. And avoiding activity for more than a day or two can make back pain worse.

At the office

If you have a desk job:

  • Adjust your chair so your feet are flat on the floor. If you can’t do this, use a footrest so your feet can be flat.
  • Keep the curve in your lower back. If your chair doesn’t help, place a small cushion or rolled towel across the curve of your back.
  • Keep reading materials at eye level. Avoid leaning over your desk.
  • Avoid bending, leaning, or twisting at the waist. Keep your workstation and tools within easy reach.

Take breaks and mix it up

  • Take 10- to 15-second breaks. For example, look away from your computer monitor, stand up, or stretch your arms. Short breaks reduce eyestrain and muscle tension.
  • Move around. When you are sitting, change your position often. Switch between standing and sitting, if possible.
  • If you can, go for a walk. This can be as simple as walking up and down the hall. If possible, leave the building and walk a few blocks.
  • Stretch your body. Get up out of your chair and stretch your arms, shoulders, back, and legs. When you are sitting, shrug and relax your shoulders. Do this at least every hour. It doesn’t hurt to do it more!

Driving, standing, lifting

If you stand or are active in your job (for example, if you are a salesperson, delivery person, or landscaper), try the following:

  • When driving, place a small, rolled-up towel or small cushion across the curve of your back. Take breaks. Pull over and walk around if your back begins to ache.
  • When standing, put one foot on a low stool. Change feet throughout the day.
  • Avoid heavy lifting and pulling. Ask someone for help if you need to. Instead of pulling, push if you can.

Work smart

Be aware of your surroundings. Use common sense. Don’t lift more than you need to, and don’t carry loads farther than you have to. Take short breaks when your back starts to hurt. Watch for hazards to avoid falling down. These small things can make a big difference.

Related Information

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
Last Revised December 14, 2011

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