Oh, My Aching Back

Originally published March 16, 2016

Various studies have shown that the construction trades have a high incidence of back injuries. Over the years, low back injuries have consistently accounted for about 25 percent of all the lost workday injuries in construction. Three out of four of those injuries occur during heavy lifting activities.

The causes of back pain and injury include:

  • Lifting excessive weight or lifting weight incorrectly;
  • Slips, trips and falls caused by bad weather or poor housekeeping;
  • Repeated twisting;
  • Awkward posture; and
  • Prolonged vibration (such as a jackhammer operation).

Unfortunately, once you’ve experienced back pain, the chances of it recurring increase greatly. The following are ways to help minimize the risk and discomfort of back injuries:

  • Plan ahead. Decide how you are going to pick up, carry and set down the load. If you need help, ask for it. Always check for obstructions in your path.
  • Lift with the object close to your body, because your lifting capacity is reduced the further a load is away from the spine. Bend your knees. Contract your abdominal muscles, and keep your head in a neutral position.
  • Use the strong muscles in your legs rather than the weaker ones in the back to lift your load.
  • Do not twist when lifting. Use your feet to pivot, moving your whole body as one unit when you turn.
  • Reduce back curvature by keeping your posture straight and your weight balanced on both feet.
  • When driving, make sure your back is well-supported, and use good posture. To prevent back strain, keep the steering wheel close enough for your knees to be slightly flexed and higher than your hips.
  • You may want to add a pre-work stretching program to your daily schedule. Warming up prepares your body for the physical work ahead and helps reduce the risk of injury.
  • Consider engaging in a regular exercise program to keep the muscles supporting your back stong and flexible. Good exercises that help strengthen your core include speed walking, swimming, stationary biking or yoga. Remember to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Take care of your back, and it will take care of you.

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