Back injuries can be extremely painful and long-lasting. They can keep you in bed for extended periods of time and they may occasionally even require surgery. For some people, back pain doesn’t really ever go away.
Back strains and injuries can happen anywhere, but a great many of them happen at work. OSHA has reported that “Back strains due to overexertion represent one of the largest segments of employee injuries in the American workplace. Only the common cold accounts for more lost days of work.”
The National Safety Council has stated that overexertion is the cause of about 31 percent of all disabling work injuries. Injuries to the back occur more frequently than do injuries to any other part of the body, so it’s very important to understand just why types of acts are likely to strain our backs and how to perform task in ways that reduce the risk.
Improper lifting is probably the greatest single cause of back pain and injury, so it’s worth taking the time to learn how to do it correctly. We’ll also look at how we can sit, stand, sleep, and perform a variety of tasks in ways that won’t harm the back. You can injure your back with one wrong move, the kind of thing that can happen by shoveling snow or by a buildup of stress on weak muscles.
Other kinds of back injuries include:
Muscle spasms, which are usually caused by tension or stress;
Strain and sprains, the result of too much exertion of weak muscles or incorrect lifting;
Slipped discs, which are tears or other damage to the disc between the vertebrae, causing the vertebrae to rub together and irritate or damage the spinal nerves; or
- Hernias, which are ruptures in the abdominal wall caused by strains from lifting.
There are various task and movements, especially lifting, that can lead to back injuries if they’re not done properly.
The biggest hazard to your back is YOU.
Among the things that make back injuries much more likely are:
- Poor physical condition;
Identifying Hazards to Your Back:
The way you live and treat your body has a lot to do with your back health. Even if your back is in good shape, there are a number of tasks and actions that can create trouble if you don’t do them properly, in a way that minimizes strain on your back.
Among the hazards to the back that may be encountered on the job are:
Twisting and lifting at the same time;
Lifting objects that have odd shapes;
Reaching and lifting objects;
Bending and overexerting;
Lifting items whose weights vary; and
- Sitting or standing too long in one position.
Steps for proper lifting:
Plan ahead before lifting – Knowing what you’re doing and where you’re going will prevent you from making awkward movements while holding something heavy. Clear a path, and, if lifting something with another person, make sure both of you agree to the plan.
Lift close to your body – You will be a stronger and more stable lifter if the object is held close to your body rather than at the end of your reach. Make sure you have a firm hold on the object you are lifting and keep it balanced close to your body.
Keep your feet shoulder-width apart – A solid base of support is important while lifting. Holding your feet too close together will be unstable, too far apart will hinder movement. Keep the feet about shoulder-width apart and take short steps.
Bend your knees and keep your back straight – Practice the lifting motion before you lift the object and think about your motion before you lift. Focus on keeping your spine straight, and raise and lower to the ground by bending your knees.
Tighten your stomach muscles – Tightening your abdominal muscles will hold your back in a good lifting position and will help prevent excessive force on the spine.
Lift with your legs – Your legs are many times stronger than your back muscles—let this strength work in your favor. Again, lower to the ground by bending your knees, not your back. Keep your eyes focused upwards to help keep your back straight.
Get help if you’re straining – If an object is too heavy or awkward in shape, make sure you have someone around who can help you lift.
There are hundreds of back and neck injuries each year due to improper lifting. It is easy to forgot about safe lifting but your back will thank you when you do remember. Above all remember that moving a box without using safety precautions may save you a few minutes but it may also cost you your job and lots of lost money on unneeded medical bills.
Keep your back healthy…always practice safe lifting!!
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