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Health Corner: Oh, my aching back

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in Career Management,Workplace Communication

Since the back is involved in almost every move a person makes, discomfort there can be particularly annoying. Relief for back pain is the second most common reason Americans head to the doctor (colds and flu are first). While pain can happen anywhere in the back, the lower region is most susceptible because it supports much of the body’s weight.

Preventing back pain

Unfortunately, office life can irritate and promote back pain. Sitting at a desk is a main culprit, as the body cannot tolerate constantly being in the same position. Be sure to stretch, walk around or change activities every 20 minutes or so. When you are sitting, don’t hunch forward to see the computer or material on your desk. (If you do so to see better, a trip to the eye doctor may be in order.) If you don’t already have an adjustable office chair that supports your lower back and helps maintain correct posture, get one. Since back pain is one of the most common reasons for missing work, make sure staff members are adequately equipped, too.

Other measures for a healthy back include:

• Regular, low-impact, aerobic exercises (e.g., walking, swimming)

• Core-strengthening exercises

• Losing excess weight

• Lifting with your legs—keep your back straight and bend only at the knees

Easing pain

When pain begins, try over-the-counter relief such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Apply heat or ice to the painful area. (The U.S. National Library of Medicine says to use ice for the first 48 to 72 hours, then use heat.) Sleep in a curled-up, fetal position with a pillow between your legs. If you sleep on your back, place a pillow or rolled towel under your knees to relieve pressure. Mayo Clinic suggests visiting a doctor if the pain is constant or intense, spreads down one or both legs (especially if the pain extends below the knee), causes weakness or tingling in one or both legs, is accompanied by unexplained weight loss, or occurs with swelling or redness on your back.

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