Five Tips from Dr. Russell Amundson, National Senior Medical Director, UnitedHealthcare
As many people in Nevada and across the country transitioned to working from home amid COVID-19, office furniture may have been replaced by makeshift desks and household chairs. However, the dining room table or a spot on the couch may not have the same ergonomic design as a traditional office setup, which may have contributed to a spike in low back pain since COVID-19 emerged.
About 80% of people experience low back issues at least once, with pain ranging from a minor nuisance to a major disability. Now more than ever it’s important to focus on CORE: correct posture, overweight, relax, and exercise. Here are 5 tips from Dr. Russell Amundson, National Senior Medical Director, UnitedHealthcare:
- Focus on Posture. Whether you are now working at the kitchen table or on the couch, focusing on proper posture may help. Make sure to sit up straight with your knees at a 90-degree angle, with your shoulders in a straight line over your hips and your ears directly over your shoulders. If you’re working at a computer, be sure to adjust the screen height to eye level and consider elevating the keyboard to help keep your hands, wrists and forearms in line and parallel to the floor. Instead of tilting your chin down while on the phone, raise the device to eye level and avoid tucking it between your ear and shoulder.
- Take Breaks. You may notice you feel sore even if you maintain good posture throughout your workday. If you stay in one spot for too long, your muscles and joints may get stiff. Consider taking quick breaks every 30 minutes to get up and stretch or walk around. This may promote better blood flow for your muscles and joints, and it may also give your eyes and mind a break.
- Stay Active. While some people with low back pain may be tempted to consider bed rest, staying active in many cases may be the best option. Low impact activities to consider include walking and swimming, while research indicates that strengthening leg muscles may also prove helpful. Yoga and tai chi have been shown to ease moderate to severe low back pain. If time is a factor, a brief walk at lunch or going up and down the stairs a few times can help.
- Eat a Healthier Diet. The bones, muscles, discs and other structures in the back may need proper nutrition to help support the body. Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats may help reduce inflammation, often a contributing factor to chronic back pain. Eating a healthier diet may also help you maintain a healthy weight, which may also reduce your risk for back pain.
- Consider care options. The American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends exercise-based therapies as the first line of treatment. If low back pain persists, ACP encourages the use of nonsurgical options for initial treatment, including physical therapy, chiropractic care, acupuncture and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs. These noninvasive treatment options, which in some cases may be covered by your health benefit plan, may help 95% of people with low back pain recover after 12 weeks. Muscle relaxants should be secondary options, and imaging (such as an MRI) and surgery should be a last resort. However, certain “red-flag” symptoms, such as fever or loss of bladder and bowel control, may require immediate testing and intervention.
UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and making the health system work better for everyone by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. In the United States, UnitedHealthcare offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 1.3 million physicians and care professionals, and 6,500 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. The company also provides health benefits and delivers care to people through owned and operated health care facilities in South America. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified health care company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at www.uhc.com or follow @UHC on Twitter.