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Is Your Job a Pain in the Back?

By Gerald Connor
Is Your Job a Pain in the Back?

Workers in Chicago and throughout Illinois may suffer from back pain at work. Many occupation types, from construction and factory work to office work and nursing, place demands on workers’ backs, which commonly contribute to back pain or injuries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 38.5%, or 134,550, of the 349,050 total cases of musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace in 2016 involved the back.

Common Causes of Work-Related Back Pain and Injuries

Factors such as repetition, force or overexertion, and inactivity may contribute to work-related back pain and injuries. Such factors often occur in the course of people performing their normal job duties. For example, workers in shipping facilities, grocery stores, and other jobs may repeat twisting movements throughout their shifts, which may cause unnecessary wear and tear on their backs. Overexertion, like that occurring due to moving or lifting heavy objects, may put too much force on the back. Inactivity or staying seated for prolonged periods, such as is common with desk jobs, may also play a role in causing back pain for workers, particularly if their chairs lack adequate support or workers have poor posture.

Preventing Occupational Back Injuries

While some contributing factors to work-related back pain and injuries are unavoidable, there are steps workers can take to help reduce their risk of suffering such conditions on the job. People may benefit from modifying repetitive tasks, which may include using headsets or speakerphones if they spend significant time on the phone, using lifting devices or other assistive aids when available, and positioning their workspaces ergonomically. Workers may also prevent some back injuries at work by avoiding any unnecessary reaching, twisting, and bending, as well as by alternating their demanding work duties with less demanding tasks.

Practicing safe lifting techniques and placing an emphasis on posture may also help workers prevent suffering back pain or injuries at work. It is important to tighten the core muscles, lift with the legs, and hold the object close to the body when lifting or carrying a heavy object. Workers should never twist while lifting and, if the object is too heavy for them to safely lift on their own, they may ask for help from a co-worker. When sitting or standing for extended periods, maintaining good posture and refraining from slouching may keep workers from putting extra pressure on their backs, which may result in pain or injuries.