What would you guess is the most common reason for missing work is among Americans? The flu? The common cold? Those are up there, but in fact, back pain is one of the most common reasons given for missed work. It’s also the second most common reason for visits to the doctor’s office, following upper-respiratory infections.
If that number seems high, so will this one: over 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point during their lifetime. And that number is rising. Since 1998, the percentage of Americans who report experiencing back pain in the last three months has risen from 29.5% to 33.7%, and 30% of those say it impacted their ability to work. Americans spend $50 billion every year on treating back pain, and $100 million in indirect costs – such as lost wages and productivity.
The culprit behind back pain isn’t hard to identify. Most cases of back pain are non-organic, meaning they aren’t caused by serious medical conditions such as inflammatory arthritis, fracture, or cancer. Here’s a hint: Of those who experience lower back pain, 54% report spending the majority of their workday seated. The primary culprit of our growing back problem is our sedentary lifestyle.
If you’re one of the 33.7% of Americans who have experienced back pain within the past three months, we have some tips for how to cope with or even eliminate the pain. Try these 5 effective treatments for lower back pain.
Yoga is trendy right now – but it’s not all about cute yoga gear and low-impact fitness. Yoga is also highly effective and stretching and strengthening your muscles. Whether you’re looking to cure back pain or to prevent it, yoga is a cost-effective and safe solution.
If you’ve ever spent the night on the floor, at a cheap hotel, or outside in the woods, you know that all sleeping arrangements are not created equal. When you sleep on a thin or non-existent mattress, you wake up with cricks in your neck and aches in your body. But it’s not just your mattress that matters – your sleeping position makes a difference too. Avoid sleeping flat on your back if you suffer from back pain, as it just exacerbates the stress on your back. A firm, supportive mattress and pillow are crucial to prevent too much curvature of your spine while you sleep.
Chiropractic therapy is proven to be an effective treatment for back pain. Chiropractors use spinal manipulation to work out the kinks in your back (often stemming from poor posture or a non-ergonomic workstation) that are causing you pain to instantly relieve your discomfort. Regularly visiting your chiropractor for maintenance spinal manipulation can provide long-term relief.
Hot Packs and Cold Packs
Applying hot or cold packs to the origin of your pain can relieve the tension that is causing your pain. When the muscles relax, they’re able to heal better than when they’re tensed.
Stand Up While Working
Sitting compresses your spine in an unnatural position that places a lot of stress and strain on your joints. The longer you stay in a seated position, the more pressure is placed on your back and the greater the toll on your spine. That’s why such a large percentage of people with back pain are those who work at a computer or desk all day long.
Experts have known for a while now that the healthiest way to work is to stand up frequently. Alan Hedge, Professor of Ergonomics at Cornell University, recommends you sit for 20 minutes, stand for 8 minutes, and move for 2 minutes. Repeat this every hour throughout the workday. For a friendly reminder, use an electric height-adjustable sit-stand desk with a built-in timer and notification system to let you know when it’s time to switch from sitting to standing.
Making a few small improvements to your lifestyle and daily routine in the office can have a large impact on your back health – both now and long into the future.