Back pain is a major ergonomic issue that is becoming increasingly common owing to changing work pattern.
Back pain, especially low back pain, is often associated with functional disability as well as economic and social consequences. It is one of the most expensive diseases in the age group of 25-50 years as it leads to serious loss of productivity. It is estimated that the loss of work resulting from backache costs 30 billion dollars annually in the US. Backache ranks second to cold and cough as a cause of loss of work. Individuals with chronic back pain usually suffer from physical impairment, behavioral changes, hopelessness, de-motivation and lethargy.
Back pain at workplace results either from non-accidental injury, where pain arises as a result of poor body mechanics such as slouching in chair, prolonged sitting and fatigue; or it results from accidental injury or accidents such as slipping, falling from a height and even hitting one’s head against a cabinet door. Workers undertaking physically demanding jobs such as repetitive lifting of heavy objects are at greatest risk for both non-accidental and accidental back injury.
People who are in the desk job most of the day are prone to non-accidental back injury. Our working style has changed and it is more technology dependent now. Many of us end up working on computers for as much as 15 hours per day! Prolonged periods of sitting or other sedentary activity is not good for back health and may cause muscle fatigue since the back and abdominal muscles have to work really hard to maintain the body in a single position for prolonged periods. Added to this the joints involved – knees, hips and intervetebral joints – have to remain stationary or in a bad posture for long hours. Incorrect posture and muscle fatigue are partly responsible for initiating osteoporosis at a very early age and put such people at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis.
One must remember that backache is only a symptom of innumerable other causes besides spine related problems. The back pain maybe related to cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, urological or gynecological problems. Besides injury and straining, the backache originating from the spine can also be due to tumor, infection, inflammation, metabolic disorders, degenerative disc conditions, spondylosis, and spondylitis.
Written by Dr. Shivani Nayar, B.Sc (Physiotherapy), PG In Hospital Management