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Back Injury Prevention

Kristin Jeziorny, MSN, FNP-C

Low back pain is one of the most common injuries for workers, leading to large treatment costs and extended time off work. Nearly one-third of back injuries can be related to occupational risk factors (Shiri, Coggon, & Falah-Hassani, 2018). Heavy lifting, repetitive movements, or prolonged inactivity can all lead to back pain and injury in the workplace (Mayo Clinic, 2016). Aging, obesity, and poor physical activity can also attribute to the cause of back pain. It is estimated that one-half of back injury patients will experience a reoccurrence of back pain within one year of a previous injury (Steffens, Maher, & Pereira, 2015). This exemplifies the importance of back injury prevention.

A recent study examined different back injury prevention techniques including: exercise, education on safe lifting, handling, and posture, back braces, and shoe insoles. The results indicated that exercise, in combination with prevention education is most likely to reduce back injuries (Steffens, Maher, & Pereira, 2015). Strengthening exercises for the core as well as stretching and aerobic exercises performed 2-3 times per week can reduce the risk of back injuries by approximately 30% (Shiri, Coggon, & Falah-Hassani, 2018). Aerobic activities such as swimming or walking can help stretch and strengthen your back muscles. Weight-bearing exercises, yoga, and tai chi can also help strengthen your core and improve balance which may help prevent falls. Quit smoking! Smoking can reduce the blood flow to your lower back, delaying healing and leading to further degeneration. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet with calcium and vitamin D can keep your bones strong. “The Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity — preferably spread throughout the week — and strength training exercises at least twice a week” ( Mayo Clinic, 2016).

There are many precautions to take while at work to reduce your risk of back injuries. Maintain good posture while sitting and standing, keeping weight even in both feet, and not slouching. When lifting a heavy object, be sure to tighten your core, and lift using your legs NOT your back. If something is too heavy, be sure to ask for assistance from a coworker. Try to avoid unnecessary repetitive motions if possible such as bending, twisting of the back, or reaching. Most importantly, listen to your body and stretch frequently to ease back tension (Mayo Clinic, 2016).

 

Q & A:

What are proper lifting techniques?

Stand close to the object, use a wide stance for good balance, ensure you have a good grip with arms straight, tighten your core (abdominal) muscles, tuck chin to chest, and bend at the knees using your body weight to lift the object. Keep the object close to your body and avoid twisting or bending while lifting. Always ask for assistance if you are hesitant about lifting something too heavy.

How long can back pain last?

Depending on the injury, acute back pain can last for a few days up to several weeks. Chronic back pain can lasts for more than 3 months.

What are some treatments to do at home?

Bed rest is NOT recommended. Moving around can help ease any stiffness. Stretching can help prevent the muscles from tightening which can lead to spasms. Over-the-counter pain medications such as an anti-inflammatory can help reduce pain. Ice or heat applications can also be beneficial for pain relief.

When should you see a doctor?

You should see a doctor if your pain has not improved with home treatments after one week, or if your back pain is constant or intense, pain is spreading down legs, causing numbness/tingling, any loss of control of your bladder or bowels, pain with fever, swelling, or redness, weight loss or weakness.

 

References:

Mayo Clinic. 2016. Back pain at work: Preventing pain and injury. April 21, 2016.          
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/back-pain/art-20044526

Shiri, R., Coggon, D., & Falah-Hassani, K. (2018). Exercise for the prevention of low back pain:   A systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled trials. American Journal of     Epidemiology, Volume 187, Issue 5, May 2018, Pages 1093–1101 ,https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwx337

Steffens, D., Maher, C., & Pereira, L. (2015). Prevention of low back pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of American Medical Association. January 11, 2016.
https://doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.7431.

United States Department of Labor: Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (2019).       Back disorders and injuries. https://www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_vii/otm_vii_1.html

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