Preventing a Back Injury Can Prevent a Lot of Pain & Suffering
The booklet Back Injury Prevention for the Landscaping and Horticultural Services Industry, which the federal agency OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Organization) released online, states that almost all adults experience back pain somewhere in their professional lives.
The Department of Labor released a fact sheet on back injuries calling it the country’s top workplace safety problem. The sheet includes Bureau of Labor Statistics blaming one of every five work place health problems on back injuries, adding that each year more than one million workers suffer back problems.
Long-Term versus Short-Term Back Pain
The OSHA booklet describes short-term pain as more common and is usually the result of too much strain on the back. It generally last less than three months and will end in a few weeks if properly treated.
Long-term pain lasts more than three months. It can cause severe disability.
Sources of Back Pain
Muscles are the most common sources of back pain. Sudden or uncommon movement that causes strain is what usually causes muscle damage. Weak muscles, muscle tension, repetitive motions and holding a position for too long can make it likelier to strain muscles.
Stress and sudden movement can also damage the facet joints in someone’s vertebra and the ligaments that hold these joints together. The joints allow you to bend and move your back.
Damage to spinal discs from spinal compression can put pressure on the nerves branching out between vertebra. This can result in weakness and pain in the back and legs.
Prevention of Back Injury
Fitness in general is important for preventing back pain, according to WebMD. Maintaining a healthy body weight can prevent unnecessary strain on the knees, for example. Certain exercises such as straight leg sit-ups and leg lifts while laying on your back can also contribute to back injuries.
Strengthening or stretching muscles can prevent back injuries by acclimating the muscles to different types of stress, according to OSHA. Even when a back injury exists, light exercise can assist in healing.
A strong back will generally remain healthier. Strong muscles in other parts of the body such as the legs and hips can also be important in assisting the back at work.
Stretching relaxes the muscles, which allows them to endure stress more effectively. It also improves the range of motion, allowing your back muscles familiarity with the uncommon movement that may have previously caused an injury.
Good posture is also important. Whether you are sitting down at a desk or on your feet lifting heavy objects, how you position yourself can affect the health of your back.
When sitting, it is important to support your body. Your back should be supported in compliance with the curve of your spine, your feet should be on the floor and your knees should be about as high as your hips. Periodically moving and stretching while sitting can reduce fatigue.
When working on your feet, you should avoid strain while in an awkward position. Bending and twisting at the same time, for example, is considered bad.
Positioning yourself face-forward to a task, changing your position instead of twisting, is considered safe. Storing work materials at waist level, pushing rather than pulling heavier objects, alternating tasks to avoid fatigue or excessive repetition, using the appropriate devices such as palette jacks or fork lifts to lift something and bending at the knees rather than the back are all recommended. And don’t be afraid to ask a co-worker to assist in lifting.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health released a book on the subject — The NIOSH Work Practices Guide for Manual Lifting.