Strategies for Minimizing Job-Related Back Problems
Your lower back is an intricate system of nerves, ligaments, bones, joints and muscles, all of which are critical to motor function…and all of which can be susceptible to inflammation or injury on the job. You don’t have to work in an occupation that involves demanding physical labor, either. You can just as easily experience back discomfort working in an office as you can on a roof or in a warehouse. Here are some of the most common causes of work-related back trauma, with recommendations on ways to avoid or minimize flare-ups.
- Heavy or cumbersome objects—It might be lifting, pushing, pulling or moving large or bulky items, including building materials, merchandise or machinery. Many injuries are caused when workers try to complete such a task only using the upper body, putting undue stress on the neck and back. Whenever possible, find someone to help you with a heavy or awkward load. If you want to do it yourself, make certain you bend at the knees and use your stronger and more stable leg muscles. Try to avoid any twisting movements when you are carrying a heavy load.
- Repetitive motion or acts—Performing the same task over and over is a simple recipe for inflammation. If possible, find different ways to accomplish the same task. Be willing to take a break for a couple minutes on a regular basis. If possible, rotate through different parts of a job. Be aware that standing or sitting in the same position for hours on end can also wreck havoc with your back and neck. Walk around, stretch, do a few head rolls…find ways to stay loose.
- Poor posture—Whether sitting or standing, it’s important that you stay balanced, so that you don’t spend a lot of time leaning to one side or the other. If you’re standing, be sure to stand straight—slouching is a common culprit for back pain. If you work at a desk, be sure to get up and walk across the room (to the drinking fountain or the bathroom) about once an hour. Make certain your workstation is ergonomically optimized.
- Avoid stress—When you get anxious or stressed, your body naturally tightens up, increasing the risk of injury. If you are feeling stressed, take a short walk to clear your head or go get a cup of coffee.
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