More than 30 million Americans suffer from low back pain. It’s the most common reason for missing work and the leading cause of disability around the world. Four out of five people will experience back pain at least once in their lifetime. In its most severe form, low back pain can be debilitating. In a milder avatar, it’s nothing more than a niggling discomfort. Is your job giving you low back pain? And more importantly, should you ignore it or treat it?
Common Causes of Back Pain
- Work-related (heavy physical labor, repeated lifting, vibration, poor posture, poor ergonomics)
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Slips and falls
- Medical conditions (slipped disc, spondylolisthesis, ankylosing spondylitis)
- Sports-related (injury to muscles, ligaments, tendons)
- Sedentary lifestyle, obesity, cigarette smoking
- Wrong mattress
- Wrong footwear
- Stress, anxiety, and depression
Low Back Pain – Ignore It or Treat It?
Many leading medical experts around the world have concluded that it’s best to – pardon the pun – turn your back on mild low back pain. This means you should essentially ignore it by staying active and continuing with regular activities. Bed rest for low back pain may make things worse because the lack of activity makes the supporting muscles in the back weaker. A multi-pronged approach often works best and a combination of physical activity, good posture, and relaxation may be curative.
Doctors warn, however, that ignoring back pain can be dangerous in some circumstances, including:
- Sudden onset of severe back pain
- Unremitting back pain that does not improve in any position
- Weakness in one or both legs
- Back pain with fever and/or weight loss
- Back pain due to a fall or accident
- Back pain that radiates to the lower legs
- Back pain in individuals with a history of cancer, weak immune system, or prolonged treatment with steroids
- Back pain lasting more than 4 weeks
Alternative Therapies for Low Back Pain
Intractable back pain may need to be treated with pain-relieving drugs, muscle relaxants, and/or surgery, but there are a number of alternative therapies for mild low back pain. Acupuncture involves inserting very fine needles at specific locations and may afford relief for several weeks. When the pain in the low back is due to tight muscles, massage can work like magic, soothing the back and returning functionality. Stretching, Tai-Chi, a regular walking program wearing shoe insoles, or a targeted workout routine can relieve pressure on the back and strengthen the supporting muscles. Pilates and yoga have dual benefits – muscle strengthening and relaxation to relieve stress
Pilates and yoga have dual benefits – muscle strengthening and relaxation to relieve stress. Chiropractic manipulations may reduce low back pain in some individuals. Many people find biofeedback or meditation to be incredibly effective in easing long-term pain.
If your job is giving you low back pain, try to find out what’s triggering it. A poorly designed office chair is as much a potential culprit as heavy lifting. If the pain in your back is mild, try to stay active and treat it conservatively with alternative therapies. If your low back pain is debilitating, however, seek medical attention to get to the bottom of it.