Lawyers, like many office workers, are susceptible to chronic back pain. We sit and stare at computer screens for long hours, and our careers are plagued with stress-inducing situations. Those are the primary causes of chronic back pain.
Because I am a six-foot-three man with bad posture, I have had terrible back pain for years. But it came to a head about a month ago when I bent down while holding my one-year-old and severely strained my lower back. About a week later, after I was able to walk like a human being again, I decided to do something about it. Here are the steps I am taking to overcome my back pain.
Recognize You Have a Problem
This part is, unfortunately, easy to identify if you’ve already been reduced to a quivering blob of pulled muscles.
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 80% of people will experience lower back pain. The risk factors for back pain include:
- You are between the ages of 30 and 50.
- You are not physically fit or are a “weekend warrior.”
- You have an inactive desk job and poor posture.
- You have pre-existing issues with stress or depression.
I fit this profile pretty much perfectly. Most lawyers probably do, too. But even if you may not fit this profile exactly, don’t ignore potential back issues before they start.
Make Time for Exercise
While it may seem like a no-brainer, at least one study shows that walking can help ease back pain. Other studies show that regularly walking can improve your mood. So get out of your office at least once a day to walk for thirty minutes or more.
Of course, a large part your ability to exercise during the day depends on the location of your office. If you work in a big office building surrounded by parking decks and a six-lane highway, that is not conducive to taking a lunchtime stroll. But given the health and mental benefits, you cannot afford not to incorporate walking and exercise in your daily routine one way or another.
See a Professional
Your goal should be staying healthy so that going to a doctor or chiropractor is the last resort. That being said, you can benefit from chiropractic adjustments, especially if you have ongoing spinal issues such as mild scoliosis. If you do have severe back pain, seek a professional opinion. You do not want your back pain to develop into something worse, like a herniated disc.
You should also consider trying yoga or other types of core-strengthening regimens. While you can always buy a DVD or look up exercises online, consider going to a class, especially if you are not an experienced yogi. The most important thing is to make whatever exercise you choose to do a routine — even if it is just a couple times per week.
To Sit or Stand?
The buzz surrounding standing desks began a few years ago. We now know that sitting all day is bad for us. It increases the chances of dying in the next three years. It increases the risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes. It also, unsurprisingly, increases your risk of back and neck pain even if you have textbook good posture.
One of the biggest downsides to standing desks is the cost, which can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. If you are not willing to make that kind of investment, try to make your chair and computer setup more ergonomic. Following simple steps such as making sure you don’t have to turn your head to look at your monitor, or adding lumbar support pillow to give your back more curve while you work can help. Finally, try to pay attention to your posture while working, instead of just slouching over the keyboard.
Maintaining Your Healthy Habits
Making these habits routine may be a struggle. I am the quintessential weekend warrior when it comes to working out. After about a week or two of trying to get back in shape, life inevitably gets in the way of exercise.
If you struggle with stress and back pain like I do, there are several ways to manage it. Meditation can help relieve stress and improve your mood. And just getting out from behind your desk and taking a walk can reduce stress and help your back pain.
But keep in mind that every person is different, and so you will find different things that work for you. What’s important is that you try to create a routine that is comfortable and doable. A routine will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent a back injury before one happens.