From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Think Everyone Has Back Pain? Study Says They Probably Do

One-sixth of all adults in the United States will report back pain this month and every month, says new research by the North American Spine Society (NASS). And the same people who report back pain are also spending about 14 days each month dealing with it.

To find out more about back pain and how adults in the United States contend with it, NASS enlisted over 1000 adults and questioned them on work, play and pain. Their findings showed that people with back pain had problems lying in bed, driving cars and had decreased sexual activity. Additionally, the study found that a quarter of the people with back pain said they could no longer engage in vigorous physical exercise and a third of the people with back pain said they could no longer lift heavy objects.

What is the cause of the back pain? Twenty six percent said it’s old age, 16 percent said work, and another 14 percent said sports and other exercise-related activities. Women report back pain more often than men with 64 percent of women versus 50 percent of men reporting pain in the past month, although more men (25 percent) target work as the initial cause of the back pain. Overall 17 percent of the respondents admitted to missing work due to back pain. And geographically, residents of the southern United States were the least likely to report back pain, although they were also the most likely to take prescription pain medication to address the pain.

Whether aging, work, or other activities are the back-pain culprits, there are ways that the workplace can make workers with back pain more comfortable and productive. In a 2003 article with The Ergonomics ReportTM, Stover Snook, Ph.D., CPE, also pinpointed aging as a source of back pain for workers, but rather than always turning to medical treatment, he recommended making the workplace more accommodating to workers with back pain, particularly since 80 percent of all Americans will report back pain at some point in their lives. How? One way Snook suggested was through workspaces that encourage posture changes and movement.

While activity is often thought to be a trigger for back pain, sedentary office workers are also not immune to back pain. Static postures, like sitting, can increase the load on the spine and require a long recovery time. But chair manufacturers and workspace designers are now seeking ways of making chairs and workspaces that encourage more movement from workers, ways that address some of Snook’s recommendations. To get more information on how posture affects the way we work, as well as information on how chairs are working to address the problems associated with seated posture, plus other workspace options, see The Ergonomics ReportTM.

Source: NASS; The Ergonomics ReportTM.