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Ergonomics and low back pain

GEHA | October 28, 2018

Everyday health
Back pain is one of the most common work-related injuries.

The goal of an ergonomics program is to adapt the workplace to a specific worker based on job description and required tasks. For instance, office worker ergonomics relates to the positions of the desk, computer, monitor and chair height.

Back pain is one of the most common work-related injuries and is often caused by an ordinary activity such as sitting in a chair or heavy lifting.

Two types of injuries contribute to back pain:

  • Non-accidental – pain as a result of normal activities and task requirements. Poor posture, prolonged activity (sitting or standing too long in one position) or repetitive motions are contributing factors.
  • Accidental – an unexpected event triggers the injury during the task, such as a load shifting, a fall or hitting your head.

People in occupations that are physically demanding and require repetitive lifting are at greatest risk for both accidental and non-accidental back injury. Depending on the type and cause of the back pain, treatment may vary; non-drug therapy is initially recommended, such as massage, exercise, acupuncture, yoga, motor control exercise or spinal manipulation.

In some cases, imaging tests can be helpful in the diagnosis and treatment of low back pain. These tests include X-rays, CT scans and MRIs. However, there is concern among physicians about the overuse of imaging because of exposure to radiation and the associated costs of the tests. In addition, sometimes imaging can lead to unnecessary surgery.

Talk to your employer about an ergonomic study for your workplace. If you are experiencing persistent low back pain, speak with your health care provider about your best treatment options.


Sources: “Ergonomics of the office and workplace: An overview.", Veritas Health, 26 September 2006., “7 tips to protect your lower back.”, Veritas Health, 29 April 2016.