The Lowdown on Low Back Pain
(and Other Aches)


Neck, Back and Carpal Tunnel Injuries in Men (and Women)

Work injuries cause most neck and back pain in men.  Neck and arm problems can also result from prolonged computer use.  A few simple steps will decrease your risk of injury.  If you do get hurt, see a neurosurgeon.  He or she can help you get better without surgery.

Back Injuries

About 80% of all Americans will have back injuries at some point in their lives. To decrease the risk, warm up before heavy work, be careful when lifting, and do core-strengthening exercises regularly.  Proper lifting techniques and just slowing down are both critical.

  • Squat, do not bend at the waist

  • Keep your lower back straight

  • Hold the weight close to the body

  • If you must turn, move your feet

  • Put the weight down again by bending at the knees

Bad habits will increase your risk of back pain.   The following have all been shown to be associated with back problems.

  • Lifting incorrectly

  • Twisting while lifting

  • Lack of proper rest

  • Obesity or poor nutrition

  • Stressful fast paced jobs

  • Smoking

If you do hurt your back, problems will resolve 90% of the time with four to six weeks with conservative care.  Ice, anti-inflammatory medications (if tolerated), mild pain medications, work modifications, and gentle exercise (walking or swimming) are helpful. Too much bed rest is bad for the back. If you have leg pain, or if your back pain does not start to get better in a week or two, see your neurosurgeon.

Computer Related Injuries

Hours at a computer workstation can be bad for your health.  Neck and arm injuries can be caused by poorly designed workplaces and too much time in front of the screen.  The following will decrease your risk.

First, fix your chair.  You should have an adjustable chair where the seat height, seat angle, back height, back angle, and arms can all be moved.  Such chairs can be purchased from office stores for less than $200.

  • Push your hips back in the chair

  • Your feet should be flat on the floor

  • Your knees and hips should be level

  • The chair should support both your upper and your lower back

  • A small pillow can be very helpful

Second, fix your keyboard.  Pick an adjustable keyboard tray with a mouse pad.  The tray should go in and out, up and down, and tilt.

  • Pull yourself close to the keyboard

  • Raise the keyboard so your elbows are horizontal and wrists straight

  • Tilt the keyboard until comfortable

  • Use wrist-rests if helpful

  • Put the mouse near the keyboard

Next, arrange your desk.  Put everything you use within easy reach.

  • The monitor should be directly in front of you and above the keyboard

  • Place the monitor so that your head is not tilted.

  • Stay 18 or 20 inches from the screen

  • Reduce glare by tilting the screen

  • Put documents between the monitor and keyboard

  • Place your telephone within easy reach and use a headset    

 Lastly, remember to take breaks. 

  • Stretch every thirty minutes 

  • Refocus your eyes periodically by looking at something in the distance

You can get help from an ergonomics expert.  Most physical therapists and chiropractors will do worksite evaluations.  Do not move heavy computers without assistance.

If you do hurt your neck or arms, the pain will go away in 90% of people in 4 to 6 weeks.  Ice, anti-inflammatory medications (if tolerated), work modifications, and stretching, are all helpful. If you have severe pain, or you do not start to get better in a couple of weeks, see a neurosurgeon.

If you have spine problems see a neurosurgeon

 Neurosurgeons specialize in spinal problems and carpal tunnel injuries. 

 For more information on spine problems see  For ergonomics, see



The information in this site briefly describes issues related to medical treatments, and has been licensed by from Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc., who is solely responsible for said content.  This web site is not a substitute for good medical care or for a consultation with a spine specialist. It should not be used to plan your treatment. The well considered advice of a specialist who has personally examined you is always superior to even the best internet pages.

Copyright 2007, Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group. All rights are reserved.  No part of this web site may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored, electronically or on paper, without the written permission of the Northern California Neurosurgery Medical Group, Inc.
Last modified: 07/27/08