The vertebral column is made of bones, ligaments, muscles, discs and nerves that protect the spinal cord while allowing the body to move smoothly. Damage or injury to any of its parts can lead to unpleasant sensation. Back injury is defined as damage to any part of the spine or vertebral column and its supporting structures resulting in discomfort and/or pain. The intensity, characteristic and amount of pain may vary depending on the type of injury sustained (e.g. sharp, dull or stabbing).
Back injuries can happen to anyone, anywhere. According to available studies, four out of five adults in the US will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Studies from The Cornell University Back Injury Prevention Program reveal that majority of back injuries in people under age 45 are work-related. Furthermore, these studies show that back injuries account for at least 20 percent of all reported occupational illnesses and injuries. The estimated annual loss due to such injuries ranges between $20 to 50 billion each year. Even minor back injuries can be costly and can greatly impact family and work operations.
Good posture is the key to preventing back injury. To maintain a good posture, you should stand or sit straight with your shoulders centered over your hips, making sure that your spine is fully supported and body weight is well distributed. By practicing good posture, you can avoid injuries and strengthen your back muscles.
Here are few more tips on how you can avoid work-related back injuries.
Tips on Preventing Back Injury
- Avoid overreaching and modify work habits that lead to sudden,
unnecessary movements. Keep objects you often used within arm’s reach.
- Make sure your workstation is well suited to your height. Avoid repetitive bending on your hips.
- When using the telephone for long time, use headset, speakerphone or shoulder rest. Never cradle the telephone between your shoulder and ear as it can strain your neck and upper back.
- When carrying heavy loads, such as briefcases, shoulder bags or luggage, use a luggage carrier, or balance or shift the weight equally to each side.
- Try to lighten your load by bringing only important items. Heavy briefcases and shoulder bags can throw you off balance.
- Ask for help if you are carrying heavy load or if the baggage is too awkward to carry. Use tools for moving goods such as trolley, handtruck, dolly or cart.
- Avoid unbalanced or awkward postures, such as sitting or standing with body weight shifted to one side, carrying wallet in back pocket, or crossing legs while sitting. Never slouch.
- Exercise regularly and get enough rest.
The Red Cross offers workplace safety training that includes modules for prevention of back injury. These first aid and CPR training courses contain essential information that aims to help minimize, if not, eradicate work-related back injuries. However, these modules are not intended to substitute health and safety training, programs and policies provided by the company.