Get Started
Get Started

Health & Exercise Forum

Prevent Back Pain this Labor Day

Sep 8, 2015

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumHappy Labor Day! Prevent Back Pain!

Lower back pain (LBP) is one of the most common problems people experience, not only in the workplace, but in daily life as well. LBP is not limited to the manual laborer but is also prevalent in those working in sedentary positions. It is estimated that 80-90% of adults in the USA will experience lower back pain at one or more times in their lives. The spine consists of 24 moving vertebrae, a fused sacrum and tailbone, and shock absorbing discs between each moving segment. The spine is designed to provide support and protect the spinal cord while remaining flexible for movement and function. Spinal nerves exit the spinal cord at each segment to deliver messages from your brain to your extremities. Pressure on one of these nerves can cause pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness.

LBP can occur from many causes. Some of these include: muscle strain, disc degeneration, arthritis, scoliosis or curvature of the spine, instability from trauma or degeneration, acute trauma from a motor vehicle accident account or a fall. The Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) and the United States Department of Labor list the following risk factors for LBP:

  • Poor Body Mechanics With Repetition:
    • Bending at the waist
    • Lifting from the floor
    • Lifting from overhead
    • Twisting at the waist
    • Twisting While Lifting
  • Lifting or Moving Objects of:
    • Excessive Weight
    • Excessive Size
    • Asymmetrical Shape
    • Awkward Position or Locatio
  • Poor Work Station Ergonomics Without Adjustable:
    • Desk Chairs
    • Foot Rests
    • Arm Rests
    • Body Supports
    • Table/Desk/ Height or Location
    • Phone Headset
  • Poor Grips on Handles
    • Losing grip while lifting causing a jerk reaction to regri
  • Slippery Footing
    • Slipping while lifting causing a quick jerk
  • Prolonged Sitting (especially with poor posture):
    • Driving
    • Computer
    • Desk

Prevention of LBP with Good Posture & Body Mechanics

 Good posture is critical for a healthy back. When sitting, standing or walking maintain a slight arch in your lower back, keep shoulders back, and head over your shoulders. In sitting, use a towel roll or small pillow in the small of the back.

Those working at a desk or workstation spend much of the day with their spine bent or flexed forward for extended periods of time. Postural exercises are designed to stretch your back in the opposite direction of this forward flexed position. Examples include:

Posture Exercises:

  • Chin Tucks(Photo 1) tuck your chin back to bring head over shoulders.
  • Shoulder Blade Pinch(Photo 2) pinch your shoulder blades together.
  • Standing Arch(Photo 3) while standing put your hands behind back, extend lower back 10-20 degrees.

Perform slowly, hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 6 times each 6 times per day

Ergonomics (Photo 4):

Sitting - When sitting, use an ergonomic work station and chair with a lumbar support and adjustable heights. Get close to your desk, keyboard and monitor.

Photos 1-3: Sarah Singer
Photo 4: Vanessa Serena

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum” in the Scranton Times-Tribune

Paul J. Mackarey, PT, DHSc, OCS is doctor of health science specializing in orthopedic and sports physical therapy. He practices in downtown Scranton and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: