It seems that every day new scientific information surfaces indicating the many health risks associated with sitting. Controversially deemed by some “the new smoking,” prolonged sitting can worsen cardiovascular health, cause organ damage, weaken muscles, and increase the risk of premature death. This can be problematic for the nearly 20 million Americans currently spending the largest part of their waking hours in office jobs and administrative support occupations.
Studies show that prolonged sitting puts 40 percent more pressure on the spinal column than standing, and the toll on back health is even greater if sitting and other office activities are performed with bad posture. Slouching, over-reaching, and performing repetitive movements for eight hours a day with no interruptions can cause workers to complain of discomfort, impairment, and persistent pain in tendons, muscles, and joints.
Over time, prolonged sitting can negatively impact the entire musculoskeletal system, leading to muscle degeneration, herniated disks, leg disorders, and a range of other serious health issues. In fact, work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) are the biggest single cause of lost workdays in the United States. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that in 2014, “32% of illnesses and injuries leading to days off work could be attributed to MSDs,” a 3-percent increase from 2012.
Pain in the Office Increases Company Costs
To employers, back pain in the office is not something they can ignore. For one, unhealthy employees make for less productive employees. A 2013 Australian study found that the least healthy employees in an office environment are nearly three times less productive than the healthiest ones, delivering only 45 effective hours worked per month compared to 140 effective working hours per month.
Employees working with back pain and discomfort can also lose employers a lot of money. The direct medical costs of back pain, disability claims, as well as the indirect effects on the overall productivity of the organization, amount to $34,600 per 100 employees every year, an expense which many employers try to offset by reducing the rate at which they increase salaries. Specifically, employers lose (annually, per 100 workers):
- $13,100 – Sick days
- $8,300 – Presenteeism
- $7,100 – Short-term disability
- $4,200 – Long-term disability
- $1,900 – Workers compensation
To make matters worse, employees suffering from low-back pain conditions also have an average of 4.9 other conditions that further decreases their work productivity and increases company costs. The higher incidence of chronic fatigue (41% of cases), depression (29%), and obesity (8%) makes back pain sufferers some of the most expensive – and least productive – of workers.
Curbing Costs with Chiropractic Care
Understanding the extent of back pain in the workforce and helping employees prevent and treat their pain is crucial to managing the full costs related to low-back pain conditions. For this reason, many companies are recently turning to chiropractic specialists, whose whole-body wellness approach aptly positions them to serve as corporate wellness consultants.
Aside from offering comprehensive services for workplace injuries designed to restore normal movement and help employees return to work pain-free, chiropractic specialists may assist companies in several other ways, including with:
Workstation Design. An anatomically-correct workstation design can decrease or eliminate the risk factors that contribute to MSDs, increase productivity, improve morale, and decrease worker complaints. An experienced chiropractor can perform ergonomic assessments of the work environment and assist with workstation design to facilitate task performance and accommodate all the physical requirements of the job.
Posture and Movement. Maintaining bad posture for the entirety of a work day can not only put workers at risk for back problems, but also increase feelings of depression, zap their energy, and decrease blood circulation. Chiropractors are experts at assessing posture and spinal problems and can actively assist your workers improve their position at the workstation and around the office.
Nutrition Guidance and Wellness Programs. Although there may not be a visible connection between diet and work productivity, food has actually a direct impact on cognitive performance. With the help of a chiropractor who also specializes in nutrition counseling, employers can encourage healthy dietary choices in the office and prevent nutrient deficiencies, as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and heart problems.
Implementing chiropractic care into your corporate wellness program will be repaid in fewer lost work days and workplace injuries and an increase in productivity and employee morale. Contact your local chiropractic clinic and find out how you can reduce company costs while helping your workers stay healthy and motivated.
About the Author
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field.