Pain in the lower back or neck always comes for a reason.
In the office, you’re either overdoing or under-doing something.
Identifying the culprit is half the problem.
So let’s just think about when you should act on pain.
1 You get pain when you’re sat at work
Most of us have to work, and that’s good. But what if the very nature of your work is giving you pain? That’s not so good.
If you have to do anything repetitive or static, such as sitting in the same position every day, and you get pain, then something must change … and that’s probably your posture and workstation and your work habits.
What really helps is movement, so getting out of your seat regularly, or even wriggling, will really help.
2 You get pain first thing in the morning
This usually means that you’ve strained the area that’s sore. Whilst you’re inactive in bed or sitting still for a while in one position, the repairing soft tissues tighten in the position you’re holding. When you eventually move or get up in the morning that tightness is stretched and gives you pain.
The lesson here is to move gently first thing in the morning and do gentle exercises. And don’t be still for long periods whilst at work. Keep getting out of your seat.
3 Pain is stopping you from doing things you like to do
How annoying is that? You really must take action.
Perhaps you could just start gently on an activity that gives you pain. As long as you don’t feel worse after the activity it probably isn’t doing you any harm. Pace yourself.
4 You’re taking painkillers every day
If the only thing you’re doing to stop the pain is taking painkillers, then seek advice. Go and see your doctor, find out what the matter is and what the remedy is. It might be exercise you need, or a workstation assessment, perhaps. Find out.
5 The pain is getting worse
OK… If you continue to do the same activity that gave you the pain in the first place, then the pain will get worse. This can easily happen to office workers.
Find out about your own personal good posture and do a display screen equipment assessment for starters. If you’re worried, seek medical advice.
6 The pain alters the way you do things
Pain has a nasty habit of making you limp, move differently or sometimes hold strained postures. This is your brain’s way of trying to reduce the pain you’re feeling. To begin with you will have less pain but, oh boy, at a price!
Altered movement patterns means that the main muscles that should be working aren’t. So your main stability muscle gets weaker and you’re less protected.
When the pain settles, that doesn’t mean you go back to the good ways of movement. Oh no, your brain has learnt a different habit and you will have to practice to get back into good habits. You can find out about your own personal good posture for one thing, and practice coming back to that posture many times a day.
Oh dear. Pain is horrible. But for everyone’s sake you need to do something positive. Let this article be the motivation to get help. Or it might be a friend or colleague who’s grumpy. Are they in pain? Ask them. People do what they do for a reason.
8 Worried about pain?
Act now. Worry can make a pain ten times worse. Speak to your doctor, make an appointment. Tell someone.
9 Not sleeping?
Please get help. We all need a certain amount of sleep or we can’t function efficiently. Try looking up the best sleeping posture for you and your pain. Maybe side lying with a cushion between your knees would help. Pillows are important. Too deep or too shallow can give neck pain.
10 Pain’s affecting your work
If you’re in the office and in pain, speak to your manager. This should not be how it is. Go through your risk assessment again. Look for what needs to change — because something needs to if you’re in pain at work. You’re not being difficult, just practical and I’ll bet if you ask there will be plenty like you too at work in pain.
Remember… Don’t let pain get you down! Be proactive. Seek help. Speak to sympathetic friends. Do something.
Can you think of any other signs that tell you to act on pain? Let me know so that we can discuss them. It might be personal experience?