3 weeks ago

How To Look After Your Back At Work - Don't Become Another Statistic

Back pain is common among workers across a wide range of occupations, but your working day doesn't have to lead to a sore back if you work smart.

How to look after your back at work

Have you ever felt a familiar twinge or nagging ache in your back during or after the working day?

If so you're not alone.

As back pain in the workplace is extremely prevalent across all industries, whether you sit, stand, drive, or undertake manual tasks.

In fact, one 2010 study found that over 1 in 4 US workers they surveyed had experienced back pain in just the previous 3 months.

This included people in a wide range of professions and affected people of all ages.

And as 80% of Americans are expected to experience back pain at some point during their lifetimes, and we spend most of our time at work, it's a problem that needs addressing.

So, let me run through the reasons why you might get back pain in your job, and what measures you can take to fix it.

And I've broken this down into the following sections, depending on whether you:

Why You Get Back Pain In The Office

How to prevent back pain in the office

Working in an office may seem like a cushy number at first glance.

After all, you're sat down in a comfortable environment all day with minimal exertion and as much tea and coffee as you can drink.

However, with 54% of Americans who experience lower back pain being those who spend their workdays sitting down, it's obvious that sitting behind a desk can actually be a major problem.

But why is back pain so rife among office workers?

It comes down to the following reasons:

  • Sitting down for long periods leads to a weakening in the spinal discs and core muscles that support your back.
  • While sitting with an unhealthy posture puts pressure and strain on your body.
  • Setting up your desk the wrong way and using an inadequate chair just exasperate these issues.
  • Becoming stressed increases muscle tension in your back.

The dangers of sitting at work

Our bodies are designed to move and it's this movement that keeps our muscles strong, our joints working nicely, and our organs healthy.

So, when you're sat down for 8 or more hours every day it's not ideal.

But especially for your back.

As this lack of movement combined with the pressure placed on your body when sitting creates a dangerous cocktail as:

  • Your vertebrae become compressed, which means your spinal discs get squeezed and don't get the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay healthy, so weaken over time and are unable to offer the same level of support. 
  • While your core muscles also weaken from a lack of activity, meaning your back receives less support and has to work harder.

So, a weakening of the spinal discs leads to a loss of flexibility in your spine, less shock absorbing protection as you move about, and more pain and discomfort.

While weakened core muscles are unable to support and stabilise your back as well both in and out of the chair, forcing your lower back to shoulder more of the burden and become strained, tense, and painful.

And another thing that causes extra pressure and strain on your back from sitting behind your desk is doing so in an unhealthy posture.

A poor posture equals even more pressure and strain

Your body is coming under constant pressure from the forces of gravity, whether you are sitting, standing, or laying down.

And this can cause a real problem if your posture isn't good.

As a poor posture unbalances you, which means the pressure and workload can't be spread evenly across your body.

And instead certain area such as your lower back have to take up the majority of the slack, leading them to become tense, strained and painful.

Unfortunately, this is a big issue in offices, as many workers get into bad sitting habits such as slouching, leaning forwartd too much, or looking down at a screen.

Or sit in office chairs that offer no lumbar support and force them into awkward and unhealthy sitting positions.

And it won't just be your lower back that gets sore by sitting in a bad posture.

As this will cause problems in your neck, shoulders, and upper back areas too.

Click here to read more about the importance of maintaining a healthy posture.

Desk ergonomics are important too

Another thing that may be a major contributing factor to you sitting in an unhealthy posture that heaps extra pressure and strain on your back is your desk set up.

As this has been found in studies to lead to a wide range of problems for office workers, including back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as eye strain and repetitive strain injuries.

Because the following things can all make it so hard to stay balanced, healthy, and well aligned in your chair: 

  • Using a chair that you can't adjust, which means you can't get it to the right height or angle for your desk.
  • Using a desk that is too low.
  • Having the monitor on your desk to one side rather than in the center, meaning you have to strain your neck to one side to look at it.
  • Or having the screen too low for your eye level so you have to look down at it, tilting your neck in the process and throwing your spine out of alignment.
  • Placing the keyboard and mouse too far away from you, or having things on the desk that you have to overreach for. 

So be aware to get your desk ergonomics right, otherwise extra pressure and pain in your lower back will inevitably follow.

Click here for tips on how to set your desk up in the optimal way for your back.

Stress in the mind leads to stress in the body

Many office workers also suffer from stress at work.

As long hours, tight deadlines, and monthly targets all heap pressure onto you that you carry throughout the day.

And this stress is seriously bad news for your back.

As people tend to hold the tension within their bodies, meaning they become stiffer, tighter, and their muscles become more painful.

And tighter muscles force you into a hunched posture, which puts even more pressure on your lower back.

While the stress also makes your breathing shorter and shallower, tightening you up even further.

And to top it off, too much stress can lead to plenty of sleepless nights, which means your back muscles don't get the chance to heal, repair, and recover.

So, it's a nightmare cocktail for your back and something you need to learn to avoid if you're going to get rid of back pain in the office.

Click here for 12 easy ways you can learn to relax and eliminate stress.

Things You Can Do To Prevent Back Pain In The Office

Now, while back pain is extremely common among office workers and a real problem, it doesn't mean it has to be inevitable.

Because there are measures you can take to stay healthy at work and minimise your risk.

And I'll run through some of these things now.

Maintain a healthy sitting posture

Sitting with a healthy, neutral S-shaped curve in your spine rather than slouching over into a C-shaped curve will really help you to avoid back pain.

As this allows you to:  

  • Spread pressure evenly across your body, making life easier on your lower back and spine.
  • Breathe easier and more deeply, which relaxes your muscles and reduces stress and tension.

So, you need to become aware of your posture as you sit and make improvements where necessary.

And some of the following things will help:

  • Get your sitting angle right - don't slouch or lean back too far. Instead, aim to sit with your back at a 90-100 degree angle to your legs and hips.
  • Hips, legs, and knees - don't cross your legs, keep your hips parallel to the floor, and your knees should remain bent at a 90 degree angle.
  • Feet - keep both feet firmly on the floor to relieve pressure on your back.
  • Head, neck, and shoulders - your head should be facing straight ahead when looking at your screen and your shoulders should be relaxed and down, rather than hunched. 
  • Arms and elbows - these should be supported by armrests with your elbows in and at an angle of between 90-110 degrees. 

And while old habits can be hard to break, over time your posture will begin to improve and so will the health of your lower back.

Click here for more tips on how to maintain a healthy sitting posture. 

Get yourself a fully adjustable ergonomic office chair

Investing in an ergonomic office chair is the best thing you can do to keep your back healthy at work.

As these chairs come with fantastic lumbar support that makes it easy to maintain a healthy sitting posture.

And you can adjust near enough every feature on these chairs to fit you like a glove.

So, you can raise or lower the seat height so it fits your desk perfectly, while also allowing you to keep both feet firmly planted on the ground to support you.

And you can adjust the seat angle to reduce pressure on your back.

While the tilt mechanism keeps your core muscles active as you sit, which prevents them from weakening the way they do in regular office chairs.

So, one of these chairs is a must for any office worker.

Click here to find my recommendations for the best ergonomic office chairs for your back.

Position your screen correctly

Having a screen on your desk that is too low or sat off to the side is bad news for your back and neck.

As this forces you to look down or off center when working, which throws your neck and spine out of alignment.

And you end up with a strain in your neck and shoulders, as well as extra pressure in your upper back.

So, to avoid this you should make sure your screen is directly in front of you and at eye level so you can stay balanced and stare straight ahead at it.

And if this is impossible with your current monitor, you can use a monitor arm to manouevre it to the perfect height and angle.

Or even place it on a stack of books to lift it up.

And if you work off a laptop, a laptop stand that raises the screen height is a must.

Take regular microbreaks to stretch and move

Sitting down for hours at a time causes tension to build and your muscles to tighten up and become painful.

So, one way to alleviate this tension is to take regular microbreaks.

As this gives you the chance to get out of your chair, have a stretch, and get your body moving.

Which will get the blood pumping again, loosen you up, and keep your muscles strong and flexible enough to continue supporting your back.

And just 5-10 minutes out of your chair every hour is enough to make a huge difference to the amount of back pain you feel.

So, make sure you get into the habit of taking little microbreaks from your office chair throughout the day.

Keep your core muscles strong

Your core muscles do an important job of holding you upright in a healthy posture and supporting and protecting your spine.

But these muscles can weaken when you have to sit down all day at work, leading to less support and more pressure on your lower back.

So, it's really important that you exercise regularly outside of the office to keep your body flexible and your core muscles strong.

As this will continue to give your back the support it needs to stay free from pain.

And some of the best ways to do this is are by stretching regularly, practicing yoga or Pilates, or going for a swim.

But whichever type of exercise you prefer, make sure you stay active and fit to minimise any pain in the office.

Click here to learn how to strengthen your core muscles.

Alternate between sitting and standing

Another way to counteract the inactivity of sitting and relieve the build up of muscle tension in your back is by alternating between sitting and standing throughout the day.

As one study showed that 54% of the office workers they followed that tried this reported a reduction in the back and neck pain they felt after only 4 weeks.

This is effective because your muscles are getting periods of working and resting.

As they are constantly active when you stand to keep your body upright, but can rest while you are sitting.

So, you can avoid the muscle weakening which comes from sitting down all day, meaning your back receives greater support.

And it gives your spinal discs a chance to stay healthy too, as by standing you are decompressing your spine.

So, invest in a height adjustable desk that will allow you to both sit and stand for periods during the working day.

And to gain the maximum benefit you should aim for between 40 minutes of sitting and 20 minutes of standing each hour. 

The Dangers Of Back Pain For Physical Workers

How you can avoid back pain as a manual worker

While working in an office is far from ideal, physical workers have it notoriously bad when it comes to back pain and injuries.

For example, government figures from Great Britain in 2015 found that the biggest industry sectors for workers with chronic back pain were construction and agriculture.

And that there were twice as many cases of chronic back pain among the skilled trades in the construction industry than in all other industries put together.

So, if your job involves any kind of manual work then you need to watch out for the following pitfalls.

As these can all contribute to the development of lower back pain (among other injuries). 

The physical exertion

There's no doubt that your body gets put through it's paces when you work a physical job.

And while this kind of work can feel good and satisfying, it can take it's toll on your back if you're not careful.

As being on your feet all day, bending, twisting, kneeling, and carrying out tasks involving repetitive motions can wear out your muscles and joints over time.

While balancing on and climbing up and down ladders can leave your body feeling fatigued and more susceptible to pain and injuries.

So, those sore and aching muscles in your back at the end of the working day are something that most physical workers will be familiar with.

Holding yourself in a bad posture when working

Many physical jobs such as construction work, gardening, or working in a warehouse involve performing plenty of powerful movements with your body.

And this can turn into the true definition of back breaking work if you do so with a bad posture.

As this will unbalance your body and put a load of extra pressure onto your lower back.

And increase the likelihood of injuries massively.

Lifting and carrying heavy loads

A 2014 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 75% of back injuries at work happened during lifting tasks.

And there are two main reasons why people come unstuck when lifting things:

  • They use a poor lifting technique that puts their back at risk.
  • They overdo it and lift loads that are too heavy.

Because when you try to lift something with an unbalanced and unstable body, all the pressure and strain is put on your lower back.

And the pressure remains a burden as you carry the object around with you.

This is why so many workers end up putting their backs out.

And when that load was too heavy in the first place, well it's even more of a problem!

Working on hard surfaces

Many physical workers have to spend their working days on hard and unforgiving surfaces such as concrete.

And this can cause a real problem in the lower back.

As these surfaces have no give in them at all, meaning your body and joints have to absorb all the impact as you walk and stand on them.

Sending shocks reverberating up through your body and causing havoc for your back muscles, resulting in pain and soreness.

Absorbing vibrations from tools and machinery

Certain physical jobs require you to operate machinery or pneumatic tools that give off vibrations as you use them.

Which causes a problem, as your body constantly absorbs these vibrations as you work.

And this puts your spinal discs and back muscles under increased pressure, which can easily lead to them becoming fatigued and sore.

Meaning more pain and discomfort in your lower back area.

Working outside in the cold

Many physical workers will have jobs where they have to work outside during the winter.

Which is bad enough really.

But working in the cold can also lead to serious problems for your muscles and joints, causing you pain and stiffness in many areas but especially in your back.

As the soft tissues around your joints expand, restricting blood flow and cutting off the supply of oxygen and nutrients that your back muscles need to stay healthy.

So, you lose flexibility in your body as your muscles become tighter and angrier, and your lower back has to work much harder than it should.

And back pain is then never far away.

How Physical Workers Can Minimise The Risk Of Back Pain

Minimising the risk of back pain for physical workers

OK, so now I've got the bad news out of the way, let's focus on the positive.

Which is keeping your back healthy and minimising the risk of pain as you work a physical job.

Because there are good practices to get into that will help you stay pain free, no matter how energy sapping your work is.

Click here to find out how gardeners can work smarter.

Warm up beforehand and stretch regularly throughout the day

It's important to warm your body up before you do any type of physical activity or exercise, and this includes physical work.

As you'll be exposing yourself to strong, powerful movements that are going to challenge you.

And when you do so with cold muscles then the chances of pulls, strains, and injuries is magnified.

So, do a set of dynamic stretches for 5 minutes before you start work to get your body moving and the warm blood pumping through your muscles.

As this will loosen you up and get you ready for what's to come.

And take the time to stretch your body at regular intervals during the day too.

As this will help to relieve any tension that is building up in your muscles and keep you flexible and loose, which will reduce the pressure and strain on your lower back.

Keep your core muscles strong

Your deep lying core muscles play a huge part in supporting and assisting your back as you carry out powerful movements and do physically intense work.

As keeping them engaged as you lift, dig, carry, twist, or bend helps to ease the pressure on your lower back and makes it easier to maintain a healthy working posture.

So, it's vital that you keep these core muscles as strong as you can to give your back the most protection and stability at work.

And the best way to do this is by engaging in core strengthening activities such as Pilates, yoga, or swimming.

Or work on core strengthening exercise at home, like the ones in the video above.

Click here to find out more about core strengthening.

Wear a back support belt

Another way to give your back more protection and stability while carrying out powerful movements at work is by wearing a back support belt.

These belts assist your core muscles by compressing your abdomen to support your spine.

And the compression also forces you into a more upright and healthier posture, which relieves pressure on your lower back.

Plus, they restrict your movements, which means it's much harder to overreach for things or bend and twist the wrong way.

So, they're great for avoiding back pain and injuries as you carry out physical tasks.

However, you have to be careful not to wear them too often, as your body can become reliant on them and your core muscles can weaken as a result.

And don't become overconfident in them either, as while they offer you more protection they don't make you invincible!

But as an aid to keep your back healthier and free from pain at work, they are a great thing to have in your locker.

Click here to find out which back support belts I recommend for physical workers. 

Practice safe lifting techniques

AS I've already mentioned, lifting things the wrong way is a major cause of back pain in the workplace.

So, it's vital that you use safe lifting techniques every time you lift.

As keeping your body strong, stable, and well balanced will spread the pressure and force evenly across your body, rather than placing the burden on your lower back.

So, make sure you follow safe lifting guidelines at work such as:

  • Keep your back straight and your gaze looking ahead as you lift.
  • Make sure your core muscles are activated to support and stabilise your lower back.
  • Lift with your knees rather than your back.
  • Keep the load close to your body and your elbows in.
  • Don't twist your body while lifting.

And maintain this care and a healthy posture when carrying and putting loads down too.

As this can be another time when your back gives way on you.

Click here to learn more about lifting safely at work.

Maintain a good posture as you carry out powerful movements

When you're carrying out powerful movements such as digging, shoveling, lifting, carrying, or swinging, it's so important that you are aware of your posture.

Because maintaining a healthy and balanced posture as you do these things will make it much more likely that you'll be able to avoid aches and pains in your back.

As this spreads pressure evenly across your body rather than straining certain areas like your lower back.

You should also make a point of taking regular breaks to give your tired muscles a rest and a chance to recover.

And try not to overdo things, as that's just asking for trouble.

Click here to find out more about staying safe while performing powerful movements like shoveling.

Take advantage of helpful gear, tools, and equipment

There are plenty of ways to work smarter when you have a physical job, and that includes the protective gear you wear and the tools and equipment you use.

And these can all help to reduce the pressure on your lower back.

So, I've already mentioned back support belts, which are a great way of protecting your back as you work.

And another great investment is a pair of supportive and shock absorbing work boots.

As these can greatly reduce the strain of working on hard concrete floors, cushioning your lower back from the impact.

While a pair of vibration absorbing gloves can lower the shocks from using a vibrating power tool.

And doing things like:

  • Using a wheelbarrow rather than carrying heavy loads.
  • Or a hose rather than carrying heavy watering cans.
  • Using a cement mixer rather than mixing manually.
  • Hiring an excavator rather than digging up the yard yourself.
  • Using long handled tools that mean you don't have to bend over as much.

Can all help to protect your back and take the pressure and strain out of physical work.

So, it's all about worker smarter to stay healthier and more protected. 

Click here for some ideas on things that keep your safer at work.

Take regular breaks and don't overdo it

It can be tempting at work to really crack on and try and get a job finished,

However, the repetitive motions and powerful movements of physical work mean your body can take a pounding when doing this.

So, it's important to pace yourself and give yourself little breaks every now and then.

As this gives your tired muscles and aching joints a chance to regroup while you catch your breath and regain your energy.

You can use this time to have a little stretch in any areas that feel tight to relieve some tension.

And also take on some fluids to keep your muscles hydrated, healthy, and working well.

Stay warm when working outside

You need to wrap up well when working outside to avoid the soft tissue expansion from the cold that causes muscle and joint pain.

While also making sure you are working smartly at the same time.

And the following things will all help you to do that and keep your back happy in even the coldest of working conditions.

  • Layer up with the right base, middle, and outer layers to protect you from the conditions and conserve as much body heat as possible.
  • Also keep your head and neck covered with warm hats and liners.
  • Wear insulated gloves and work boots that keep your hands and feet warm.
  • Invest in a portable heater and take regular breaks in a warm room or cabin.
  • Drink plenty of hot drinks and soups to keep you warm on the inside.
  • Keep your body moving and don't stand still.

Fuel up well on food and drinks

You'll be using up a lot of energy when working a physical job, so it's important that you keep yourself well fueled throughout the day.

As your muscles will begin to struggle and become fatigued quicker if you don't eat enough or allow yourself to become dehydrated.

And your spinal discs are effected by a lack of fluids too.

As they are made up mostly from water and lose some of this water during the day as you move and work.

So, when you don't take on enough fluids to replace this lost water they weaken.

And they then can't provide the same cushioning or shock absorbing support for the vertebrae in your spine.

Meaning your back muscles become strained and you end up tight, stiff, and full of aches and pains as a result.

So, make sure you drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to keep yourself well topped up.

And eat healthy energy-boosting snacks regularly so your muscles don't become tired and strained.

Why You Get Back Pain When You Drive For A Living

How to avoid back pain when you drive for a living

If you drive a taxi, bus, truck, or van for a living then you're in a high risk group when it comes to developing lower back pain.

As many hours spent sat in the same position behind the wheel while being exposed to the vibrations from your vehicle is a terrible mix for the health of your back.

So much so that in 2015 the US Bureau of Labor Statistics found that truckers were three times more likely to suffer from workplace injuries than any other industry.

While another study showed they were significantly more likely than office workers to suffer from back and neck pain.

So, lets look at why this might be the case.

Click here to learn more about why driving causes back pain.

Sitting down all day while being exposed to whole body vibrations

Similarly to office workers, being sat down all day is a killer for your back.

As this results in:

  • Compressed vertebrae which squeeze your spinal discs and cause them to weaken, so they can't offer the same level of cushioning and protection for your spine.
  • Inactive core muscles which also weaken, meaning your back receives less support and stability.

So, you have the usual problems caused by being sat in the same position for a prolonged period of time. 

However, as bad as this is for your back, drivers have an additional factor that makes it so much worse.

And that is the whole body vibrations you are exposed to when driving your vehicle.

For instance, one review of 25 studies into occupational back pain found that people exposed to whole body vibrations alongside sitting were four times more likely to develop lower back pain than those sitting without any vibrations.

And the reason these vibrations are so damaging is because they are constantly being absorbed by your body.

This ramps up the pressure and strain even further on your already compressed spinal discs, as well as your lower back joints and muscles.

And you can feel the aches and pains that come from this for hours afterwards.

So, it's no surprise that you're far more likely to develop back pain when you spend all day driving.

Sitting in an awkward posture

Many people have a tendency to get into bad habits and sit in an unhealthy and unbalanced posture as they drive.

Which causes even more pressure and strain on their lower back.

And sometimes it's not even your fault, as driver seats aren't always built to be supportive or encourage you to sit with a good posture.

So, you need to take matters into your own hands to make sure your seat and vehicle are set up correctly to keep you in the right position.

And get into good driving habits that optimise a healthy posture.

And I'll explain how to do this in a moment.

Performing powerful movements with cold and stiff muscles

If you're a delivery driver your job will also involve loading and unloading your vehicle at various periods during the day.

And this can cause a problem for your back.

As your back muscles (and everything else) will become tighter, stiffer, and more sensitive when you've been sat behind the wheel for a while.

Which means it's much easier to pull a muscle or injure yourself if you don't take care when lifting, carrying, and unloading your deliveries.

So, you need to be careful on your rounds and respect your body at all times to avoid back pain.

How To Avoid Back Pain Behind The Wheel

back pain when driving for work

While driving for a living puts you at high risk of developing back, neck, and shoulder pain, it doesn't have to be the case.

Because there are things you can do to minimise the risk and make driving a much healthier and safer activity.

This includes optimising your vehicle, being aware of your posture, and getting into good driving habits.

So, let's go through them one by one now.

Click here to read more about how truckers especially can avoid back pain.

Where possible make sure your vehicle is well optimised

Now this doesn't mean kitting your ride out with snazzy new rims and a banging sound system.

Instead, it means making sure it's as road worthy as possible so it can give you a smoother ride and cut down on your exposure to whole body vibrations.

And you can do this is a number of ways.

Firstly, make sure you have a set of high quality tires that are the right size and pressure and can grip the road comfortably.

Then fit a set of top class shock absorbers that will cut down on the bumps and jolts you get from the road.

While driving a vehicle with power steering with cut down on the effort it takes to turn the wheel, meaning less strain in your upper back, arms, and shoulders.

And while you may not have control over these things if you drive a company vehicle, do your best to get it as good as possible.

As your back will thank you for it in the long run.

Sit with a healthy driving posture

Maintaining a healthy driving posture that keeps you well balanced and in alignment is crucial for relieving pressure on your lower back as you drive.

So you want to sit upright and maintain a healthy S-shaped curve in your spine.

And a few tips for doing that are as follows:

  • Don't sit too far away from the steering wheel - to test this your wrists should be able to rest on top of it when you reach out, as this will allow you to keep a slight bend in your elbows as you drive.
  • Also don't sit too far away from the pedals - your feet should reach them comfortably while keeping a slight bend in your knees, which will take pressure off your lower back.
  • Make sure your steering wheel is positioned in the center - this will keep your body aligned and balanced.
  • Hold the steering wheel with both hands - keeping a grip in the 9 and 3 positions will also keep you nicely aligned on the journey.
  • Adjust your wing mirrors - get your mirrors in a position where you can easily check them without having to twist or strain your neck.
  • Don't keep anything in your back pocket - a wallet or phone in your back pocket will unbalance you as you sit and throw you out of alignment. Seriously!

Use a lumbar support cushion to make the seat more back friendly

Another good idea for maintaining a healthy driving posture is to add a lumbar support cushion to your drivers seat.

As this will add the much needed lumbar support that the chair may be lacking to keep your back healthy.

And these cushions are designed to stop your back from flattening out against the chair.

So, it'll be much easier to maintain that S-shaped curve in your spine, rather than slouching into a C-shaped curve which puts your lower back under lots of pressure.

Click here to find my recommendation for the best lumbar support cushion to use in your vehicle.

Be careful when loading and unloading your vehicle

It's all too easy to put your back out while loading or unloading your vehicle with tight and cold muscles.

So, you need to remain vigilant to keep your back free from pain while doing this.

And the following things will all help you: 

  • Be careful when getting in and out of your vehicle, especially if you're in a truck with a high rig you need to jump down from.
  • Have a quick stretch and warm up before starting any lifting or unloading.
  • Make sure you practice safe lifting techniques and maintain a good posture at all times.
  • Wear a back support belt for extra protection if moving heavier loads.
  • Wear a pair of work boots with good arch support and grip that can protect your lower back from the impact of the concrete and asphalt.

Practice regular small movements when driving

One of the reasons  your back hurts when driving is being stuck in the same position for too long.

As this causes tension to build within your muscles, which makes them stiffer and more painful.

So, a good way to counteract this is to become a bit of a fidget and move and shift around in your seat every now and then.

As even these slight movements can relieve some tension and help your muscles stay loose.

So, rotate your hips, bounce your knees, roll your shoulders, shake your head from one side to the other, stretch your arms out, and have a big yawn.

And make sure you keep your eyes on the road while you're doing so!

Use heat to keep your back muscles relaxed

Another way to relax tight and sore back muscles while you drive is by applying some heat to them.

So, if you're lucky enough to be in a vehicle with heated car seats take advantage of it.

As the heat you get from this will keep your muscles loose and get the blood circulating that delivers the oxygen and nutrients to them that they need to stay healthy.

And the sensation of heat is comforting and distracting too, so it can also work to take your mind off any pain and discomfort you may be feeling.

But if you don't have built in heating in your car seat don't fret.

Because you can buy things like heated seat covers, heated cushions, or heat patches you place on your skin, that will also have the same effect. 

Take regular breaks and move your body

Driving non-stop for hours at a time may get you to your destination faster, but it's seriously bad news for your back.

As this allows tension and stiffness to build up in your body, which is only going to lead to pain and misery.

So, make a point of stopping for 15 minutes every couple of hours to relieve this pressure.

And use that time to have a stretch and move around to really loosen your muscles up again and get the blood circulating. 

Control your stress levels

Getting stressed behind the wheel is common as you deal with tight schedules, idiot drivers, and too much traffic.

However, letting this road rage rise to the surface can be bad news for your back.

As people tend to hold this stress and tension within their bodies.

So, not only will your back muscles be tenser and tighter.

The stress can also force you to sit in a hunched and tense posture, which will put your lower back under more pressure and strain.

So, listen to some soothing music and let it go!

Use the right things to help you recover at the end of the day

It's natural to feel stiff, sore and achy after a long day of driving.

However, there are things you can do that will help your back muscles to relax and recover in time for the next day, such as:

  • Using a TENS unit to deliver electrical impulses to your back that distract your brain from any pain and allows them to relax
  • Giving yourself a massage with a foam roller or massage cane, which will release any tight muscles and get the blood circulating.
  • Adding some epsom salts to a hot bath and soaking away the stresses of the day.
  • Using an ice pack to help reduce any painful swelling and inflammation in your back that may be causing you pain.

And try and get a good night's sleep as well.

As this is the time when your body can rest, heal, and recover, leaving you ready for another day behind the wheel tomorrow.

Click here for a list of things you can buy for a driver to help ease their back pain.

Workers That Are On Their Feet All Day Need To Watch Their Backs Too

Maintaining a healthy back for workers that are on their feet all day

People that are on their feet all day (but not have to move around much) may not have to put their bodies through the extreme effort that physical workers do.

But that doesn't mean they're off the hook when it comes to back pain.

Because all those hours of standing around can leave you with a familiar annoying ache in your lower back at the end of your shift.

So, people like waiters, supermarket cashiers, shop workers, doormen, or security guards all need to watch out.

As standing up for prolonged periods of time at work has been shown to be a cause of the development of lower back pain.

With workers that spend 4 hours or more on their feet being much more likely to suffer from musculoskeletal disorders.

And here's why.

Increased muscle co-activation

Your body is under constant pressure from the forces of gravity and this is never more true than when you are standing.

As in this position your muscles are forced to work overtime to keep you upright, especially your hips, trunk and core muscles.

And the co-activation of these muscles all working hard at the same has been shown to be a cause of back pain.

As they become fatigued and can't fulfill their usual job of supporting your back as well as they should.

Which means your lower back comes under increased strain and pressure as you stand, leading to sore and aching muscles.

Lower limb fatigue

Standing for long periods is also hard work for your lower body.

As not only do they have to battle to keep you upright, they do so with a limited blood supply, as this gets cut off while you're standing.

So, they don't get the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay strong, and this leads to the muscles and tendons in your legs becoming tired and cramped.

Which is bad news for your back.

As your legs can't support your weight as well as they should and your lower back has to pick up the burden, which adds a lot of strain onto it.

Standing in an unhealthy posture

Standing in an unbalanced posture means your body can't spread the pressure from the forces of gravity evenly.

Instead, you are forced to compensate, with your lower back being one of the areas that come under more pressure.

And this extra work leads to sore and painful muscles in your back.

So, watch out for some common postural mistakes when standing such as: 

  • Standing with your bottom sticking out.
  • Or going the other way and standing with your stomach sticking out.
  • Having your neck hanging forward and looking down.
  • Hunching your shoulders and flattening your back.

Having a forward tilting pelvis

People that suffer from a forward tilting pelvis usually struggle to stand for a long period of time without experiencing back pain.

As this is commonly caused by having tight hips and weak abdominal and core muscles.

Which is far from ideal for your back.

As your lower back will get less support and your spine tends to curve out of alignment.

Meaning compensation has to occur, muscle imbalances are created, and your back is put under more pressure.

Which is only going to end one way.

Standing still

One of the biggest problems with standing is when you have to stand still

Because the inactivity involved with this is a big reason why you develop back pain.

As this causes your supporting muscles to weaken and become tighter every day.

Meaning your back receives less and less support, while at the same time being forced to work harder and harder.

Which leaves you with increasing levels of soreness and pain in your back.

Click here to read more about why standing can cause back pain.

How To Avoid Back Pain When Standing

Avoid back pain while standing at work

Standing up all day at work is pain, but it doesn't have to leave you IN pain.

As there are a few good standing habits you can get into which will take the pressure and strain off your lower back.

And you'll be standing more comfortably in no time.

Click here to find out more about how to avoid back pain when standing at work.

Maintain a good standing posture

As with every other type of worker I've written about here, maintaining a good posture throughout the working day is key to avoiding a sore back.

As keeping your body well balanced allows it to spread the pressure from the forces of gravity evenly.

Rather than compensating and putting certain areas under more strain, such as your lower back.

And good posture is even more important when you stand all day, as standing involves more work for your muscles to keep you upright.

So, work on your standing posture so you can make life easier for your back and keep everything more loose and comfortable.

And you can do this by aiming for the following:

  • You should stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  • Activate your core muscles to hold your stomach in, rather than letting it stick out.
  • Stand up straight with your shoulders squared but down and not hunched.
  • Keep your head up and your gaze looking straight ahead rather than allowing your neck to tilt forward.
  • Don't slouch!

And a good way to test out if you're getting this right is to practice standing with your back against a wall.

As if you are then the back of your head, shoulders, and bottom should all be touching the wall.

Click here for more details on how to stand with a healthy posture.

Shift positions regularly

Standing still causes tension to build up in your muscles, which will leave them feeling stiff and sore.

And this inactivity also causes them to weaken over time, which makes it harder for them to support your back or hold your body in a healthy posture.

So, it's important that you keep moving your body, even if you have to stand in one spot.

Because simply shifting your weight from one foot to the other, rotating your hips and shoulders, or having a little stretch can really help to release tension and keep your muscles loose.

And it can help to keep your blood circulating too, which helps your muscles stay strong and healthy.

So, don't be a statue if you want to avoid back pain.

Alternate between standing and sitting if possible

If you've been on your feet all day then I bet you'll be dreaming of the moment you can take the weight off and sit down in a comfy chair.

Well, don't wait for the day to finish to get this relief.

Because if there's a way you can alternate between sitting and standing during the working day you should take it.

As this is a great way of relieving the muscle tension and fatigue that is so common when standing for long periods.

And it also gives your body the best of both worlds.

As your muscles remain strong and active to hold you upright in a standing position, but can relax and remain inactive while you sit.

So, alternating regularly between standing up and sitting down will really help you to avoid muscle pain and tiredness in your lower back.

Take regular breaks and have a stretch

Another way of giving your back muscles a rest and relieving the tension from standing is to make sure you take regular breaks.

As this gives you a chance to sit down, relax, and take the load of for 5-10 minutes.

And you can also use this time to have a little stretch.

As this is great for keeping your muscles loose and flexible so they can continue supporting your back as you stand.

And it increases blood flow, which ensures your muscles get the oxygen and nutrients they need to stay healthy and ward off pain and tightness.

Stand on an anti-fatigue mat

Standing all day on flat, hard, and unforgiving surfaces like concrete or tiled flooring is really tough on your body.

As the impact and shocks reverberate up through your joints, muscles, and ligaments, putting them under enormous stress and pressure.

So, a good way to counteract a hard surface like this is to stand on an anti-fatigue mat.

As these mats are thick and flexible, and are designed to absorb the shocks and protect your body.

Which will lower the load and burden, and make your lower back a lot happier.

And they also promote small movements in the lower limbs, which will get the blood circulating better and keep your muscles more healthy and less fatigued.

Wear supportive footwear

Another way of absorbing the shocks from standing on hard surfaces all day is by investing in a supportive pair of work boots.

As wearing a pair of boots or shoes that are comfortable and have good arch support can really help to keep your back out of trouble.

Because they cushion the impacts and protect your muscles from the constant strain and pressure they cause.

While also keeping you nicely aligned and making it easier to stand upright in a good posture.

And they help stop your feet and lower limbs from becoming fatigued, which is good for circulation and to makes sure your back remains supported as you stand.

So, a decent pair of work boots or shoes is a must-have for any worker that spends most of the day standing.

Click here for my recommendation of the best work boots for standing on hard surfaces.

Keep your core strong and stay active

Having strong core muscles will really help you out if you stand up for long periods.

As they support your spine and ease the pressure on your lower back, while also making it easier to maintain a healthy standing posture.

So, a good preventative measure to avoid back pain from standing is to keep these muscles strong by exercising outside of work.

And it's also important to maintain a good level of fitness in general.

As this will keep your body flexible, strong and able to withstand the pressures of standing so much better.

So, get into the habit of exercising regularly and aim for a mix of the following:

  • Core strengthening exercises that keep your supportive muscles strong.
  • Stretching exercises that keep your body flexible.
  • Cardiovascular exercise that increases your fitness and stamina levels.

Also, exercising regularly will keep your weight down, which is another factor that will take the pressure off your back as you stand at work.

So, keep your body moving outside of work so your back can stay healthy and pain-free when you have to stand still while at work.

Click here to find out more about why you need to stay actice to avoid back pain.

Rounding Up

Back pain in the workplace is a real problem across a wide range of professions.

And it can strike you no matter what your age, gender, or type of work is.

So, I hope I've managed to explain some of the dangers you need to look out for in your job, and given you some useful tips on how to protect your back at work.

As nothing makes the working day worse than feeling nagging aches and pains in your back.

Share here!

Daniel

I'm a psychology graduate and a veteran of 5 spinal surgeries. I want to help people learn how to fight back against persistent back pain just like I have.