Have you ever thought about how often people get back injuries at work? Sitting in front of a laptop for hours has increased the likelihood of hurting your back. Moreover, agencies dealing with occupational health and safety point to injuries resulting from sitting for long periods of time.
Organizations across the world urge employers to ensure the safety of their workers which also refers to jobs requiring a worker to sit in one position for a long time.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year with 128,229 cases registered in 2020. Meanwhile, the UK Labour Force Survey suggests that in 2021/22 there were 202,000 cases of work-related musculoskeletal disorders where the back was affected.
This article will reveal the reasons for back injuries and how to avoid back pain at work with the use of modern applications and the right ergonomics.
Understanding Back Injuries
The main cause of such injuries is damage, trauma, or wear to the muscles, bones, or connective tissues. In addition to serious traumas, such as car accidents or age-related degenerative changes in the spine, injuries may occur from playing sports, or doing work around the house.
When it comes to occupancy, it is possible to get back injuries at work while lifting heavy or bulky loads or performing repetitive tasks such as packing products. However, back pain from sitting all day at work is dangerous as well. Sitting in one position without moving any muscle might lead to sciatica, back injuries, muscle tenderness, and aches. Moreover, even the workstation can affect the condition of your back with some employees pointing to lower back pain from office chairs.
Most Common Types of Back Pain and Injuries
This condition can be caused by many factors and can even grow into chronic pain. The common types include muscle strains, herniated discs, and fractured vertebrae. Each can cause varying degrees of discomfort and limit the mobility of a person that affects their daily life.
Heavy lifting, repetitive movements, and sitting at a desk all day can take a toll on the bones, discs, joints, ligaments, and muscles in the back.
Muscular Strains and Sprains
These are the common injuries that affect the muscles and ligaments. Sprains usually occur when you injure a ligament attached to a joint as a result of twisting or lifting improperly. Meanwhile, a strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon due to sudden movements, or repetitive actions. For example, muscle strain is the cause of a thrown-out back that has a risk of serious complications.
In general, the symptoms of strains and sprains include pain, muscle spasms or cramping, and swelling.
The treatment of strains and sprains depends on the degree of injury, as it can range from a minor strain to a complete muscle tear. The latter is especially typical for professional athletes and requires immediate medical aid. As for minor injuries, a number one recommendation is to put ice packs to reduce pain and spasm. The patient needs to rest and avoid physical activities for some time to aid in the healing process.
This condition, also known as a slipped disc, is a common spinal condition when the inner material of a disc affects the outer layer and puts pressure on nearby nerves.
The main cause is age-related degeneration when the ligament that holds the disc material in place starts weakening. However, the researchers also point to genetic predisposition with some people being more vulnerable to this condition.
The symptoms commonly include back pain, sciatica, tingling, and numbness. In any case, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis. The treatment begins with maintaining low activity for a few days, taking anti-inflammatory medication, and physical therapy. However, in some cases, the doctors recommend surgery when the conservative treatment options bring no results.
Although it is difficult to prevent it, especially when it comes to age factors, practicing good posture can also reduce the risk of herniated discs.
Spinal fractures occur as a result of breaking or cracking the spinal bones due to various causes, including car accidents, falls, sports injuries, or osteoporosis. Those fractures are usually classified as stable or unstable depending on whether the injury moved the vertebrae out of usual alignment or not.
The main symptoms usually include severe back pain, spinal deformity, limited mobility, tingling of muscles, or even height loss.
Meanwhile, the treatment depends on the location and severity of the fracture. The conservative options involve bracing, and in some cases, you might wear a brace for several months. There is also pain management, physical therapy, and surgical interventions, such as vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. Anyway, it’s crucial to consult a doctor immediately to prevent further damage to the spinal cord.
Main Causes of Back Injuries at Work
If you have ever thought about how to reduce back pain at work, you, first of all, need to have information about the main causes. Back injuries at work occur due to various causes, specifically poor posture, repetitive tasks, lifting heavy loads, or bad ergonomics.
Of course, there are some jobs like construction, factory work, or nursing that affect spine health. However, there is also a high risk for employees who sit without moving for prolonged periods of time. Routine desk jobs or remote work without maintaining good posture may result in frequent pain and discomfort.
Lifting Heavy Objects Improperly
Some occupations require daily lifting of heavy loads, which is a major reason for developing back pain. Although it’s impossible for employees, for example in the construction field, to avoid lifting heavy objects, there are certain rules to follow. First, a person should not carry loads one-handed.
Moreover, there are back injury prevention fact sheets that teach how to avoid injuries thanks to lifting properly. It is necessary to lift the load when being close to the object and without bending the knees. It is important to maintain the back’s natural curve and to take frequent stretch breaks.
In addition, the employer must ensure safety at the workplace, including adequate lighting and enough space to move freely. This is why ergonomics plays a crucial role in terms of creating a hazard-free area for the workers.
Poor Posture and Ergonomics
One may not feel the effect of poor posture at once, but over time it causes stiffness, and weakness and puts pressure on muscles and discs in the spine. Therefore, jobs requiring constant standing or sitting may cause back pain at work. Slouching or hunching over a desk also puts pressure on the spinal cord and the back muscles. Anyway, it’s better to start with prevention rather than to think about how to deal with lower back pain at work when it already causes discomfort.
First, if you work in front of a laptop for hours remember to change posture every 30 to 40 minutes. A person can either stand, walk, or do stretching and other exercises. Secondly, inadequate ergonomics in the workplace, such as poorly designed chairs, the incorrect height of armrests, and distance from the monitor and keyboard can affect your health.
Thus, optimizing the workstation with adjustable furniture and proper positioning of the keyboard and mouse may relieve back pain from the office chair and minimize the risk of back injuries. Simple steps such as the assessment of the work environment and equipment used help prevent injuries and further complications. Creating a supportive ergonomic environment leads to improved employee health and overall productivity.
Jobs associated with specific repetitive movements can be harmful to the muscles, tendons, and joints. The motions that involve constant twisting or rotating of the spine, and repetitive physical force using the back are a cause of injury. The warning signs are pain, soreness, and loss of strength in muscles.
Eliminating awkward posture and excessive exertion is one of the remedies. A key prevention technique is to do breaks and stretching and adjust the workplace to fit your body. Physical exercises such as side bends and upper body twists repeated several times during the day help maintain a strong back.
Consequences of Untreated Back Injuries
The complications stemming from untreated back pain may affect a person’s overall health and quality of life. People believe back pain is a common thing caused by improper lifting of heavy bags or an uncomfortable bed. However, the nagging and repetitive pain signals serious complications. First of all, it can develop into chronic pain that impacts daily life, reducing productivity and well-being.
Untreated back injuries significantly limit mobility and disrupt sleep which in turn contributes to poor overall health. There is also a psychological impact that may result in depression, anxiety, and increased stress. Chronic back pain leads to fatigue and loss of productivity. Subsequently, a person gets less active, avoids physical activity, and is reluctant to work out or simply walk long distances. Therefore, there is a high risk of weight gain which is extra stress on joints and the spine and makes things even worse.
Adjusting to back pain by changing the way you sit and stand may also lead to complications. Some cases require proper medical attention and rehabilitation.
Do not hesitate to see the doctor if:
- Pain continues longer than several weeks
- You feel numbness, tingling in both legs
- It causes new bladder and bowel problems
- Spreads down the legs
- Pain is accompanied by fever
The injuries contribute to the development of secondary complications, such as spinal stenosis and nerve damage. Therefore, it is crucial to understand how to tackle the problem instead of ignoring it for months.
Preventing back pain is crucial for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding the serious conditions mentioned above. This includes healthy habits, engaging in regular exercises, ensuring ergonomic workstations, and using modern technologies and software.
When it comes to the workplace, employers must promote awareness, and a culture of safety to prevent their workers from getting injuries with the help of wellness programs.
Maintaining a Safe Work Environment
Small improvements at a workstation can help relieve stress on the body and reduce injuries. It’s important to know how to avoid lower back pain at work by providing ergonomic equipment and conducting regular safety assessments.
The employers’ efforts to introduce training on safe lifting techniques and encourage open communication regarding potential hazards will also play a critical role. In the case of repetitive motions, a number one recommendation is to temporarily change tasks to regain strength and take a break.
Using Assistive Devices and Software
In the modern world, our office routine and daily life is concentrated around laptops and gadgets that we often use without limits contributing to poor posture and leading to back injuries and eyestrain.
But why not use the benefits of modern technologies to overcome these challenges? It is essential to utilize new AI-powered tools that may bring an impact without much effort and resources. The posture corrector applications like Bliink are here to remind us about the need to sit straight and provide real-time feedback.
With a set of tools for posture correction, calculating the blinking rate, and measuring the distance from a laptop, Bliink contributes to pain reduction and improves overall health. User-friendly interface and historical performance charts remind you to go back to a healthy work style.
As compared to other reminder apps, Bliink requires interaction and notifies you in case you deviate from the right posture.
Many people complain about back pain in daily life without taking preventive measures. However, using the right techniques, and addressing the risks of repetitive motion and poor posture may lead to tangible results.
Leverage new technologies and apps like Bliink to reduce the likelihood of back injuries at work and the risk of complications. The app guides you on how to improve yourself and tracks your progress daily. The reminder makes you stay focused on your work at the same time, persuading not to forget about a healthy lifestyle.