Many Americans spend at least forty hours a week at work. It makes sense, then, that your working conditions can have a huge impact on your health. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, back injuries account for one in every five workplace injuries. Back injuries may impact your ability to earn a living and disrupt your personal life. Even though there are effective treatments for back injuries, prevention is the best medicine.
Here’s how to avoid hurting your back at work.
Pay Attention To Posture
Whether you are swinging a hammer or sitting at a desk, posture can make all the difference. If you spend most of your day standing, try to balance your weight evenly between your feet (and wear supportive shoes). You should avoid slouching or rolling your shoulders forward, whether sitting or standing. Looking down at your screen or project with your neck bent is one of the most common causes of neck and upper back pain.
Try to position your work area and your body so that your spine is in a neutral position. This means that your normal spinal curves are supported and not exaggerated (bent back or forward) and that your head is centered between your shoulders. To accomplish this at a desk, you should move your computer screen to eye level and sit in a chair that supports your lower back with your feet on the floor and knees at a 90-degree angle.
People with active jobs may need to remind themselves to correct their posture as they switch activities throughout the day. For instance, if you are in construction, you should use every available piece of equipment to avoid awkward positioning. Bring yourself closer to a low-down task by sitting on a stool or bucket instead of crouching. Wear knee pads to protect your patella (knee cap), and don’t carry more than 20 pounds of tools on you at a time. Avoid twisting when you use a shovel or lift something. Even while doing active tasks like digging or pushing a lawn mower, you can keep your body neutral. Ergonomically designed tools like long-handled shovels can make this easier.
Build Core Strength
You’ve probably heard the term “core muscles.” It refers to the muscle groups in your torso that support your organs and spine. These include your pelvic floor, abdominals, and erector spinae muscles. Core muscles support most of our movements throughout the day and are especially important for strenuous activities like lifting. Even if you have an active job, some of your core muscles may be underdeveloped. Focusing on core muscle building will improve your ability to perform strenuous tasks and make injury less likely. Remember, some of these muscles hold your spine in place, so it’s easier for something to slip out of place if they are weak.
Since much of the strength and support for lifting and other activities like boxing, swinging a baseball bat, or pushing a lawnmower should ideally come from your core, a weak core transfers strain to other areas. Your hip flexors and other structures in your pelvis and lower back take the hit. A strong core protects these areas from strain that they aren’t meant to handle.
It’s a good idea to seek guidance from a personal trainer if you believe you have a weak core. They can help you zoom in on which muscle groups you need to train. Exercises like bridges, planks, supermans, and bird dogs are all helpful for core muscle development. You should talk to your doctor before starting a core exercise routine if you’ve ever had a surgery or injury involving your back or abdomen.
Ask For Help and Use the Right Equipment
Those boxes are labeled “team-lift” for a good reason. In the bustle of a busy day, it can be tempting to just do a task yourself and not wait for help, but that’s never a good idea. Spending a few minutes waiting for a coworker or piece of equipment that can help you do your job safely is well worth it and could save you time out of work.
Always make sure you understand and have access to the safety equipment at your workplace. Some jobs require workers to wear harnesses or use dollys to help them lift and transport heavy objects. While these tools can make a job easier, it’s still important to use good lifting or pushing techniques. This means holding objects close to you at chest level and keeping your spine neutral as you walk. Lift with your knees and pull your belly button in to engage your core muscles. Never twist or arch your back as you push. Try to engage your core muscles and keep your back straight. If you have the option to either push or pull, always choose push. Pulling puts a strain on your lower back that is hard to avoid, even with good posture.
At an office job, a chair with good lumbar support and a lift to bring your screen up to eye level should minimize posture problems. If an ergonomic chair isn’t an option, you can put a pillow behind your lower back.
Manage Your Personal Risk Factors and Habits
It’s important (and legally required) that your workplace provides you with the equipment and training to do your job safely. As an employee, you should be informed about your rights and what to do if you feel your company isn’t providing a safe environment. But there are also parts of the safety equation that depend on your choices.
Investing in supportive footwear or inserts is one personal change that can make a big difference in your comfort level on the job. Supportive shoes minimize strain on your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back, thus preventing pain and injury. You can make lifestyle changes to mitigate health-related risk factors for back and joint pain like obesity and smoking. Talk to your health care provider about how to lose weight, quit smoking, and eat a healthy diet that will reduce inflammation.
In addition to working on your posture, developing other healthy habits like standing up every hour or so at an office job, and working out more often will also improve your existing back pain and reduce your risk for injuries.
Back Pain Treatment in Kentucky
At All Star Chiropractic, we provide back pain prevention and treatment. Our chiropractors provide counseling on lifestyle changes and corrective exercises to improve your posture and musculoskeletal health. We also provide spinal adjustment, K laser therapy, and spinal decompression therapy for patients who are struggling with back pain. Schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you be healthier on the job and in your free time.