Archive | October 20, 2017

Keeping Your Back on Track at Work

Lifting heavy objects.
Overusing the same muscle.
Carrying children and groceries.
Sitting at a desk with poor posture.

These are some of the things that put our backs to the test every day. Janie C. “Kaki” Bruce, MD, and and Bruce Goeckeritz, MD, FACR, CCD, are rheumatologists with Lexington Rheumatology, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice. As doctors treating joint and soft tissue diseases, they have great advice for keeping your back on track in the workplace.

“Sitting at a desk all day can cause neck, shoulder and upper back pain,” Dr. Goeckeritz said. “There can be chronic strain on your muscles from poor posture while spending hours in front of a computer screen using a keyboard and mouse. It’s the same kind of pain that comes form overworking muscles during a weekend project around the house.”

Some patients also experience a headache in the back of the head that gets worse as the day progresses, or pain that spreads and feels like pins and needles.

“For most of us, sitting for prolonged periods is part of our daily routine,” said Dr. Bruce. In fact, studies show that American workers spend nearly six hours of each work day sitting at a desk. “Poor posture or sitting in chairs that are not ergonomically correct can also exacerbate lower back pain.”

Options including ergonomically correct chairs and standing desks can help. A rheumatologist can also proscribe injections, physical therapy, dry needling and muscle relaxers.

Lexington Rheumatology. Clockwise from top left: Bruce Goeckeritz, MD, FACR, CCD; Fernando X. Castro, MD; Janie C. “Kaki” Bruce, MD; Maria Farooq, MD; Frederick A. Talip, MD

“These treatments can help, but strengthening the muscles and preventing future strains are the keys to solving the problem permanently,” Dr. Goeckeritz said.

Back pain that continues for more than three months can be related to osteoarthritis in the back – also known as degenerative disc disease.

“This condition results form wear and tear between the disc spaces in the spine, causing narrowing and bone spur formation,” Dr. Bruce said. “Pain usually begins in patients over age 40 with a history of overuse or injury.”

Other types of arthritis can cause inflammation in the spine and other joints. These conditions usually include stiffness in the morning that improves during the day and with use.

Sometimes, back pain may indicate a more serious condition. Back pain that radiates into the legs, or occurs with a fever, weakness in the leg, or onset of incontinence warrants a trip to the doctor immediately.

Rheumatologists can help establish the cause of back pain, rule out concerning symptoms that need immediate attention, and recommend appropriate therapy.

Back Tips
~Sit upright, pull the computer keyboard toward you and raise the monitor so that you don’t slump your shoulders or lean your head and neck forward while looking at the screen.
~The top of your computer monitor should be at eye level.
~Your chair should have adjustable seat height, back and arm rests.
~Stretch your shoulders, neck and upper back frequently.
~Avoid sitting or holding a muscle group in the same position for hours.
~Outside of work, participate in exercise that focuses on strengthening the muscles of the neck and upper back.