While the rise of the sedentary lifestyle isn’t doing humans any favors, excessive manual labor can take its toll on the body as well. In fact, back pain is the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims in America. What measures should be taken to protect the health of your back while performing taxing work, and when is it time to take a break?
Potential Risks. Manual labor can be very intense and involves many factors that could contribute to back pain. Let’s look at some of the risks that come with physically demanding work.
- Force. If you are constantly lifting or moving heavy objects, you could eventually pull a muscle or jar something out of place. If your muscles aren’t strong enough to support the heavy lifting you’re doing, you’re much more likely to sustain an injury.
- Repetition. Often manual labor involves performing the same motions over and over. Repetitive movements can wear on certain muscle groups making them fatigued and prone to injuries. Also, constantly twisting or rotating the spine puts you at a higher risk for back injuries.
- Poor Form or Posture. Heavy lifting and repetitive tasks are even more dangerous when done with poor form or bad posture. The spine’s natural alignment is meant to protect the back, but if your posture compromises the natural curves of the spine, that puts you at risk. In addition, performing tasks without being mindful of proper form is a recipe for disaster!
Protect Your Back. Prevention is the best form of pain management. If you know you’re going to be performing manual labor or it’s a part of your daily duties, take the following precautions to avoid pain and injury.
- Stretch. Just like you would stretch before you workout, you need to stretch before doing physically taxing work. You’re asking a lot of your muscles and joints, so you need them to be warmed up and flexible to handle the job. Stretching promotes circulation, improves muscle posture, and raises energy levels. You can find a daily stretching routine here.
- Modify Where You Can. Don’t take the brunt of it if you don’t have to! Use lifting devices to help you with heavy loads and modify repetitive tasks to be less taxing. Also when thinking about your day, consider alternating physically demanding tasks with ones that are less taxing. And, always take a break if you start experiencing pain. Pushing through just puts you at higher risk for injury.
- Come Equipped. Prepare yourself for the work you’ll be doing. Wear shoes that are comfortable to work in all day and provide the support you need to promote a healthy spine. Consider wearing a back brace that will take some of the direct pressure off of your spine while you’re bending and lifting.
- Stay Active. Make exercising part of your routine outside of any manual labor you do. I recommend a routine of walking, strength training, and yoga to promote well-rounded health.
- See a Chiropractor. With all the stress you’re putting on your back, it’s vital that you see a chiropractor regularly. A chiropractor can keep your spine aligned and catch any problems that might arise before they turn into a serious injury.
Listen to Your Body. Lastly, listen to what your body needs. If your back is telling you that it’s time to stop, then stop. There is no reason to continue working through pain and injure yourself. If you feel like it’s time to rest, let someone know and work with them to prioritize the health of your spine.