When your job requires some lifting – whether you are a construction worker, health care aide or warehouse employee – your work could take a serious toll on your back. Even if you are an office employee, you can end up with disabling back pain because you bend incorrectly, slip, trip or have a poorly designed or provisioned work station.
Being unable to work can leave you with financial concerns and worries about taking care of your family. Will you ever be able to return to work? How will your medical bills get paid? Can you receive compensation for lost wages?
Which professions see the most back injuries?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 1 million U.S. workers injure their backs at work each year. Back pain is the second most common reason people miss work: behind only the common cold.
While back injuries can be experienced by workers in a variety of industries, there are some professions that report a larger number of them. These occupations include:
- Nursing assistants
- Maintenance and repair workers
- Stock clerks and order fillers
- Freight, stock and material movers
Just because your job is not listed does not mean you won’t suffer a back injury. Workers often hurt their back when they are unaware of the possibility of an injury occurring. Understanding how to take precautions can help you avoid injury and keep you healthy and productive.
Tips for preventing a back injury
To prevent a workplace back injury, the Mayo Clinic recommends the following tips:
- Pay attention to your posture. This means avoid slouching when you are standing, And when you are sitting, make sure your chair supports your spinal curves. You also should sit so that your feet rest flat on the floor or on a footrest parallel with the floor.
- Lift properly. If you have a job where you lift heavy objects often, you should receive training on how to lift properly. Common lifting technique includes using your knees to lift, as well as tightening your abdominal muscles to help support your back. Ask someone else for help if you cannot lift something on your own.
- Modify repetitive tasks. If you have lifting devices to help lift heavy objects, use them often. Try to rotate your tasks so you have less-strenuous tasks for half the day, or at least a few hours at time. Give your back a rest whenever you can.
- Do stretching exercises. Stretch before you start your shift or take some of your break time to walk around to gently stretch your muscles to relieve built-up tension in your back.
What others say:
- Maintain good physical conditioning. Summit Orthopedics reports that extra weight increases wear and tear on your back and joints, and makes injury more likely. People who are overweight are 15 percent more likely to sustain musculoskeletal injury, and people who are obese are 48 percent more at risk for injuries.
- Strengthen your core. The Cleveland Clinic recommends building and keeping a strong core to prevent back injury and pain. Your core is not only your “six-pack.” It is a group of muscles in your abdomen and back, your trunk, that provides stability to your spine. Scientific evidence does not necessarily support specific core exercises as being more effective than general exercise, but they certainly can’t hurt. Check out the exercises listed in the linked article for more ideas.
No one wants to be sidelined from work because of intense back pain. Following these tips can help prevent a workplace injury. However, if you do face a workplace back injury at some point, make sure you report it to your employer immediately and request workers’ compensation. If your worker’s compensation claim is denied or you do not receive enough money to cover the costs of your care, consult with a workers’ compensation attorney about getting the benefits you need to recover and continue to provide for your loved ones.