Back pain at work

Abbey Kole is a physical therapist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA.Work can be a pain in the neck. Literally.
Tight shoulders. Neck stiffness. Backache. All this and you really didn’t do anything – except sit at your desk all day, plugging away on your computer. 

One potential cause for the high rates of back pain is the increasingly sedentary nature of our careers. Abbey Boudouvas, a physical therapist at Tufts Medical Center has seen a lot of these symptoms. She says one reason back and neck pain may be on the rise is the increasingly sedentary nature of our work. She shares her advice on how to best prevent and treat lower back pain after a stationary day on the job. 

Adjustments at work

“Back pain can result from many different causes,” said Boudouvas. “Generally, strengthening the abdominal and paraspinal muscles and addressing posture under the guidance of a trained clinician will help immensely.”

Changing your work environment and adding in movement to your everyday work schedule could greatly benefit your lower back. For those who work at a desk, she recommends something called the "Hedge’s 3S’s Ideal Work Pattern,” a routine pioneered by ergonomics professor Dr. Alan Hedge that alternates between sitting, standing and stretching throughout your normal shift. The Pattern suggests that during a typical 7.5 hour workday, you should perform: 

  • 5 hours sitting
  • 2 hours standing
  • ½ hour of movement
  • 16 sit-to-stand transitions

Benefits of physical therapy

Physical therapy for patients in the Sports Medicine and Shoulder Program at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA. If you are still experiencing pain after making these adjustments, you may want to speak with a physical therapist to learn about other treatment options that may work for you. Ask your primary care physician if seeing a physical therapist is right for you. 

“Physical therapists can help determine the cause of your back pain, decrease the pain and get you back to the things you love,” says Boudouvas.
To contact Tufts Medical Center’s Physical Therapy Department, call 617-636-5632. To contact the Tufts Medical Center Spine Center, call 617-636-2266.