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Industrial Workers: How to Avoid Back Pain at Work

construction back pain

Back pain — especially low back pain — is incredibly common among industrial workers (mechanics, factory workers, construction workers, etc.).

In fact, one study found that more than 60 percent of industrial workers experienced low back pain on a regular basis.

The nature of most industrial work, which requires a lot of bending, lifting, and pushing heavy loads, sets many people up for chronic back pain. But, back pain doesn’t have to be a part of the job.

Read on to learn more about how industrial workers can reduce their risk of back pain. We’ll also share some tips on how to effectively treat back pain and injuries.

Common Causes of Back Pain for Industrial Workers

The following actions are some of the most common causes of back pain in industrial workers:

  • Lifting heavy loads
  • Carrying loads in an awkward way, such as with one hand
  • Performing repetitive tasks like packing products
  • Driving long distances or driving over rough ground
  • Stooping, crouching or bending for hours at a time
  • Pushing, dragging, or pulling heavy loads
  • Frequent stretching, reaching, or twisting
  • Spending prolonged periods of time in the same position

Working beyond normal limits or working when physically tired can also increase one’s risk of experiencing low back pain.

Preventing Back Pain

Research on preventing back pain in industrial workers has shown that prevention can be broken down into the following three categories:

Primary Prevention

Primary prevention takes place before any kind of pain or injury occurs. It is the most common prevention strategy. When it’s applied correctly, this approach can significantly decrease cases of back pain within a particular workplace.

The goal of primary prevention is to increase workers’ resistance to back pain by teaching them about the causes and risk factors that make them more likely to experience it. Primary prevention also focuses on teaching techniques that help ward off back pain.

Some specific components of a primary prevention program include:

  • Teaching proper lifting techniques
  • Altering the design of the workplace to reduce physical demands (e.g., using mechanical hoists to minimize the amount of lifting a worker has to do)
  • Implementing maximum lifting weights to prevent workers from overdoing it
  • Preplacement strength testing to determine a worker’s risk of back pain

Primary prevention techniques are very cost-effective for workers and employers. This is because they are focused on preventing injuries and avoiding the costs and loss of productivity that come with them.

Secondary Prevention

This involves working with people who are already experiencing back pain and taking steps to make sure their pain does not get worse.

There’s a delicate balance that must be met in the secondary prevention stage between over- and under-treating. If a worker over-treats with too much rest, for example, they can end up making their pain worse rather than better. The opposite, of course, is also true.

Some specific secondary prevention steps that workers can take include:

  • Limiting bed rest to a maximum of two days
  • Maintaining regular activity and performing exercises that stretch and strengthen the back
  • Using radiological investigations in cases where red flags (significant trauma, advanced age, etc.) are present
  • Working with a physiotherapist (in cases of chronic pain that lasts longer than three months
  • Investigating psychosocial factors (depression, anxiety, emotional issues) that could also be contributing to pain

Staying active seems to be one of the most beneficial forms of secondary prevention for workers with back pain. Exercises like swimming, walking, and yoga are especially helpful.

Tertiary Prevention

For workers who are returning to work after experiencing a back injury or long-term back pain, these tertiary prevention steps can help them ease back into the workplace without exacerbating their pain.

Some characteristics of tertiary prevention include:

  • Modifying work to accommodate the worker’s pain
  • Continuing rehabilitation work to strengthen the back and minimize pain
  • Looking into psychosocial factors that contribute to pain

These tertiary preventative measures can be difficult for workers who are unmotivated to enroll in rehabilitation programs and actively work to reduce their pain. However, when done properly, they can be highly effective.

Treating Back Pain

After experiencing back pain or a back injury, workers should take the following steps to treat their pain and keep it from getting worse:

Early-Stage Treatment

Taking the following steps immediately after injury have been shown to be effective for many people struggling with back pain:

  • Staying active to reduce soreness and tension
  • Using hot and cold therapy to relieve soreness and promote healthy blood flow to the painful area
  • Sparing use of painkillers (preferably over-the-counter ones that are less habit-forming)
  • Short courses of spinal manipulation performed by a chiropractor or physiotherapist
  • Massage therapy or other alternative pain-relieving treatments

If these treatment methods are not effective, you may need to work with your doctor to come up with a more aggressive treatment plan.

Long-term Recovery

In addition to these early-stage treatments, the following long-term recovery steps can help you continue to heal and get back to work as soon as possible:

  • Steadily increasing activity level day by day
  • Getting up to stretch regularly and avoiding staying in one position too long
  • Adjusting tasks at work to avoid reinjuring your back
  • Doing your best to maintain daily activities to prevent stiffness or muscle atrophy
  • Changing activities regularly to avoid repetitive use injuries
  • Wearing a back brace to provide extra support and promote proper movement patterns

A back brace can be especially beneficial if your injury or pain is exacerbated by certain movements or postures. It can also provide extra support when you’re first getting back to work and daily activity.

Do You Need a Back Brace?

If you or someone you love is an industrial worker struggling with low back pain, you might want to consider buying them a back brace. This can be a great tool to provide extra support and minimize pain as they heal and work toward recovery.

Check out our online store to find a back brace. We have a variety of options available, so you’ll be sure to find a style that works for your or your loved one’s specific needs.

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