It’s no secret that working in construction can increase your risk of back pain. In fact, the construction industry has the second highest rate of back injury in the country, with 25% of injuries being back-related. Construction involves lifting heavy objects, bending one’s body in uncomfortable positions, and standing for extended periods. These activities can strain the back, potentially leading to moderate to severe back issues if ignored. Taking the right precautions, however, can help to mitigate injury and even improve job performance.
The Importance of Maintaining Good Back Health
The back’s main function is to support the body’s weight. It’s comprised of three curves, which evenly distribute weight and enable the arms and legs to function properly. When too much weight is placed on a single curve, it flattens and can injure the tendons, ligaments, and muscles surrounding it. This often results in a back strain, which is one of the most common forms of back injury. Lifting heavy materials on a construction site with a bent spine, for example, is a frequent cause of back strains. Other injuries that can result are herniated disks, sprains, fractures, and pinched nerves. These types of back injuries can cause pain, limit flexibility, and make movement challenging.
Another vital function of the back is to protect the spinal cord. The spinal cord serves as a communication channel between the body and the brain, coordinating all of the body’s movements. While back strain alone may not injure the spinal cord, continuous pressure on this region may hinder the back’s ability to protect it. More serious cases of trauma to the back, like an accident or fall, can directly cause serious damage to the spinal cord. Damage to this area is often accompanied by weakness, pain, or numbness, and can go undetected for weeks, months, or even years.
Preventive Measures for Prioritizing Back Health
To safeguard back health, it's essential to take preventive measures. Here are some key suggestions to avoid back-related injuries:
When lifting heavy materials, never bend over to pick them up. Instead, find a stable position on the ground, bend your knees, and pick materials up, distributing most of the weight to your legs. When carrying materials, try to keep the load closer to your body and at waist level. When putting materials down, try to maintain a steady position, as twisting can increase your risk of injury.
While it may be tempting to carry as much as possible to complete a job quickly, safety should always be your priority. Use available equipment to assist with heavy loads, carry materials in smaller portions, and ask a co-worker or supervisor for help when necessary.
Repeated motions can weaken muscles and ligaments, increasing the chances of acute injury. While the injuries may seem minor, they can cause more serious issues down the road. Stretching, maintaining good posture, and taking periodic breaks are all ways to avoid injury from repetitive motions.
A clean environment significantly reduces the chances of both personal and team injury. Working in a disorderly environment can cause workers to trip and fall, expose the team to potentially hazardous materials, and decrease overall efficiency on a job site.
Stretching can reduce muscle tension, improve blood circulation, and enhance flexibility. EDA encourages workers to stretch before every job. In general, workers who stretch before working report less instances of back strain or lifting-related injuries.
When dehydrated, the body limits the amount of fluid that it distributes , prioritizing the hydration of the organs. Stay hydrated to prevent discomfort in not only the back, but also the neck and legs.
While prevention is the best approach to maintaining back health, it’s equally important to seek treatment as soon as possible when injured. Treatment options vary based on the severity of the injury and intensity of the pain. For minor injuries, it may help to apply a cold compress to the affected area and take anti-inflammatory medicine. It is also recommended to reduce heavy physical activity, but not eliminate exercise, as this may worsen the problem. If pain persists for more than 10 days, consult a physician, who may refer you to a chiropractor. Common forms of treatment include modified physical activity, use of a muscle relaxant, or physical therapy. Complex issues may require more specialized care.
EDA Cares About Back Care
During this Back Care Awareness Week, EDA takes the time to acknowledge the daily risks faced by our tradespeople. In addition to training workers on how to protect themselves on the job, EDA prioritizes providing the tools and equipment needed to make jobs more worker-friendly. Only by prioritizing the health and protection of our workers can we be successful together.