How to Manage Spinal Stenosis Symptoms at Work

by LSI on May 17, 2013

Spinal stenosis symptomsIf you have spinal stenosis, going to work and sitting at a computer for hours or standing behind a cash register all day can seem like agony. But taking time off work for neck or back pain isn’t a realistic option for most people, so what’s to be done? The first step should be to talk with your doctor about a treatment plan that fits your lifestyle. He or she can suggest ways in which you can manage your day-to-day activities while treating your spinal stenosis symptoms.


While it may not be feasible to get a massage while at your desk or have your physical therapist show up in the break room, there are a variety of ways that you can manage spinal stenosis and mitigate pain while at work. Some tips include:

  • Pain medication – If your doctor suggests over-the-counter analgesics or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, be sure to keep these with you at all times. Your physician may also prescribe stronger narcotics or muscle relaxants, but test these medications at home before taking them in the workplace so that you can be aware of any side effects.
  • Hot/cold compresses – Keeping hot and cold compresses at work is a good way to relax muscles and numb pain, respectively, in the neck or back. A freezer and a microwave in the break room offer an easy way to prepare your compresses. If you don’t have access to a freezer or microwave, instant-activation packs are also available.
  • Braces – Do not use back or neck braces without your doctor’s approval. Overuse or misuse of braces can lead to injury or a decrease in muscle strength. However, used correctly, back braces can provide increased support when sitting or standing for long periods of time.
  • Walk/stretch breaks – Be sure to take breaks as frequently as possible to walk and stretch. Keeping yourself mobile can help loosen spinal ligaments and take stress off the spine, possibly helping to relieve spinal stenosis symptoms.

Accommodating Spine Conditions at Work

You should use your discretion about whether you feel comfortable talking to your supervisor at work about your spine condition. However, you should always stay in close communication with your physician and notify him or her if any form of treatment is causing you pain or does not seem to be helping you spinal stenosis symptoms. Those encountering problems with accommodation of their spine condition may consider talking to their union representative or consulting a labor law specialist.

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