How Not to Wreck Your Back at Work
Common Causes of Back Pain
Back pain is often identified as an unavoidable ailment, most especially for those working physically demanding jobs. Back pain is commonly caused by:
- Poor lifting techniques
- Bad posture-seated or standing
- Physical overexertion by force
- Extensive amounts of inactivity
Preventing Back Pain at Work
Avoiding the most common causes of back pain will help you remain pain free at work. Preventative practices include simple changes and awareness of your body’s physical capabilities. Follow the guidelines below to reduce your risk of back related injuries and promote healthier choices in your workplace.
Proper Lifting Techniques
Lift with your legs as you tighten your core abdominal muscles. This method allows you to use the strength of larger muscles instead of the ligaments and smaller muscles in your back. Keep heavy objects close to your body. If an object proves too heavy to lift on your own, ask for help or use equipment designed to properly lift heavy items. Limit the time you spend carrying heavy items by taking short breaks.
Good posture, whether standing or sitting, improves overall back health and maintains spinal alignment. When standing, balance your weight evenly on both feet. Keep your shoulders raised and level; slouching can add pressure and tightness to your back. When sitting, choose a chair that allows you to rest your feet flat on the floor and comfortably supports the curves of your spine.
Small tasks, when repeated throughout the day, can cause strain on your body. Slow build up in the body of these repeated movements can lead to chronic back pain if not addressed properly. Alternate physically demanding tasks with less demanding actions, giving your body recovery breaks.
Activate Your Body
Inactivity over long periods of time can lead to tight muscles and achy limbs. Activating your body gives your muscles an opportunity to engage, recover properly, and renew strength. Take a walking break if you work at a desk for long stretches of time. When seated, march your legs in place or move your arms in circles to keep blood circulation flowing.
Taking part in periodic exercise helps improve overall health and wellness, which helps prevent back pain or injury. Walking, swimming, or aerobic exercises strengthen your back muscles and abdominal core. Improving balance with exercises such as yoga or tai chi decreases your risk of falling and injuring your back.
OSHA Safety Guidelines
The OSHA Technical Manual associates back injury with common workplace activities. Employers should observe employee postures and lifting mechanics. Suggestions for evaluating behaviors that can lead to back injuries are outlined and include surveying employees for safety understandings related to workplace incidents of back pain. In the event of a back injury, employers must record the injury on the OSHA Form 300 log and make any necessary safety adjustments to prevent future incidents.