SAFETY TIP 12
Take Care of Your Back
Statistics show that about 80% of Americans will suffer some sort of a back injury either on or off the job during their lifetime, and many of these injuries will require medical attention. Chronic back pain also causes millions of people to suffer varying degrees of discomfort, ranging from “nagging” minor discomfort to extreme pain. In more severe cases back injuries can even result in disability and loss of work, both short and long term.
Back injuries can be suffered by office workers just as easily as more physically demanding work, and once you suffer a back injury, you are more likely to suffer another one in the future. OSHA, in fact, considers injuries to the back as one of our major workplace safety problems, and the medical costs associated with on the job back injuries are staggering.
WHAT ARE THE MAJOR CAUSES OF BACK INJURIES OR BACK PAIN?
You might have heard the term “ergonomics”. Basically what that means is the design of tools and workstations that interact with your body to help prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
NOTE: For additional information regarding ergonomics, you can use the following URL to access an OSHA ergonomics web site: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics/index.html
WHAT KIND OF BACK PROBLEMS CAN I SUFFER?
Fortunately, most back pain goes away after a few days of rest, and sometimes the use of a heating pad or warm baths will help. If however, you have severe back pain that doesn’t go away with rest and/or heat treatment, seek professional treatment from your Doctor.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT BACK PROBLEMS?
Although nothing can guarantee that you will never suffer a back injury, there are many things that you can do to help avoid one.
First, understanding how you back works can be one of the keys to back injury avoidance. It has been said that your back is your body’s foundation. Just like the foundation of your house holds up your house, your back holds up your entire body.
Your back is made up of the spinal column consisting of twenty-four vertebrae (bones). The vertebrae support the body, and protect the nerves inside of your spinal column. Between the vertebrae are disks that are like cushioning pads or “shock absorbers”. You might have heard the terms “slipped disk”, or “ruptured disk”. These are aggravations of varying degree caused by trauma to the disks that can be the cumulative result of poor back conditioning or the sudden result of poor lifting or bending techniques.
Your spine is not perfectly straight. It has three curves one at the neck, one at the middle back, and one at the lower back. Muscles and ligaments connect to the vertebrae to help hold them in place and help to keep these three curves in their natural alignment. Disruption of this natural alignment through misuse can easily result in a back pain.
Avoiding a back injury and the resulting pain can be as easy as making a few lifestyle changes, like keeping your weight in check and becoming more physically fit and limber.
You also have to start thinking about using your body and back as it is meant to be used. Think about the way you move, lift, carry, bend, reach, sit, stand, or lie down. Think also about the tools and equipment you use. Here are some suggestions that should help:
Regular exercise strengthens your back, increases your flexibility, and can often relieve soreness. Exercises designed for you in particular, based on your overall condition are the best. For that reason, we are not providing any type of exercise regimen here, but rather we suggest that you consult with your own Doctor about what type of exercise routine is best for you and your back. Remember, a strong flexible and healthy back can do its job supporting your body without aches and pains.
After assessing the load to make sure that it is something you can handle, and your route is clear, there are basically 5 steps to safe lifting and carrying:
Squat, don’t bend is the simple rule to remember here. Whenever you have to reach something down low, bend at the knees rather than your back.
Over reaching can easily result in a sudden back injury, and repetitive over reaching can eventually take its toll on your back. Arrange your workstation so that the material tools, or equipment you use frequently are within easy reach. If that is not possible position your self that you move your whole body to grasp the object, rather than overreaching for it.
As mentioned earlier, there are three curves in your back that we need to keep in alignment. The lower curve (lumbar curve) is the one that needs the most support when you sit. Here are some tips for you to remember:
Bad standing posture (i.e., slouching) can lead to a bad back. Stand with your chest out, your shoulders back, and your ears, shoulders, and hips lined up. If you are going to be standing in one position for a while, you can try placing one foot on a small box or footstool. Shifting from one foot to the other on this footrest occasionally helps to prevent unnecessary stress on your back. Even something as simple as badly worn or unevenly worn soles on your shoes can also lead to bad posture and possible back pain.
Many people seem to forget that they spend a very large portion of the time lying down, either sleeping or resting. This should be a restful time for your back, as well as your whole body. The idea here is to take the load off your back for a while so that your back can take a break from supporting your whole body, and there are some things you should consider to make this possible:
Tools and Equipment
Whenever possible, use tools and equipment that are ergonomically designed to reduce the possibility for musculoskeletal disorders, including back problems. Many manufacturers now offer these types of tools and equi pment, including we here at U-TECK.
Note: Please see this our companion “Teck Tips” feature for more information on our ergonomically friendly equipment.
Remember, if you take your back for granted until it hurts, then you are taking a big risk. By then, some irreversible damage might have already been done. Take care of your back properly b efore something happens, and it will take care of you.