Is Your Job Killing Your Back?
Whether it’s just a gig to pay the bills or your dream career, work life, including taking care of family, can play a big role in your overall health. And, sometimes, not in a good way.
In summer 2016, the North American Spine Society (NASS) asked its members to rank the professions they consider most “back-breaking.” Click through to see what spine specialists say are the top-10 biggest offenders, and get tips for how you can keep working and save your spine.
#10 Motherhood and Baby Care
Spine-saving tips: Rethink your diaper bag. Consider a backpack-style diaper bag as opposed to the more traditional over-the-shoulder version to better distribute weight. Also, investing in an ergonomic baby carrier will ease the load when carrying your child.
#9th Factory Work
Factory workers often perform tasks that require them to do the same movements for prolonged periods, causing muscle fatigue and weakness. Disorders related to performing the same function over and over again is called repetitive motion disorders.
Spine-saving tips: Occasionally take a break to evaluate your posture. Straighten your spine and relax your shoulders. If you can vary your tasks, do so. It will allow you the ability to use different muscles instead of fatiguing the same ones over the course of a work day.
#8 Auto Mechanic
Working on cars requires a lot of bending, twisting, and arching of the back. These movements put the spine in awkward positions, which can cause pain and injury.
Spine-saving tip: Whether under the car’s hood or the car itself, get as close to the part or area you’re working on to prevent injuring your back muscles.
#7 Warehouse Work
Warehouse workers have physically demanding jobs, often spending a great portion of their day lifting, pushing and pulling heavy loads that risk injuring their spines.
Spine-saving tips: Think before you act. Before lifting a load, test the weight by lifting one corner. If the object is too heavy, ask for a coworker’s help or use a cart or forklift. Also, wear gloves to improve your grip and protect your hands.
Dentists perform procedures that keep them in the same position for long periods, while also twisting and bending their necks and upper backs. That’s why many in the profession experience upper back pain and neck pain.
Spine-saving tips: Magnification and good lighting will bring your field of vision closer and allow your neck to rest in a natural position, as opposed to being held forward and flexed down. If chair arms are available at your office, use them to support your upper arm or forearm when doing precision procedures with your hands.
#5 Manual Laborers
Manual labor. Just the name of this career elicits thoughts of back strain, sprain, and overall pain. Manual laborers regularly lift heavy loads, use hand and power tools, perform repetitive tasks, and bend and twist—all of which spell disaster for the back and neck.
Spine-saving tips: Your job equipment goes beyond the heavy machinery you use at work. Wear a good pair of supportive shoes, and talk to your doctor about whether a back brace will help prevent potential back problems on the job.
#4 Office Workers
Sure, office workers generally don’t spend their days lifting large objects or operating heavy machinery, but the opposite end of the spectrum may be just as detrimental to your spine. Sitting and staring at a computer screen all day may wreak havoc on your posture and can leave you grimacing in pain at the end of each work day.
Spine-saving tips: Get up out of your chair every hour to walk around and stretch. Or, perhaps invest in a sit-stand desk to encourage you to vary your posture and position throughout the day.
Nurses are on their feet during most of their shifts, and stress levels can be high in this profession. Transferring patients, moving heavy medical equipment, and bending to assist with procedures can all contribute to the development of back and/or neck injury.
Spine-saving tips: During breaks, take a few minutes to do some gentle spine stretches like shoulder rolls, neck bends, and hamstring stretches. If your day is particularly hectic, even a few minutes of quiet meditation may help stave off the negative effects of stress.
#2 is Construction Work
Construction work can put some serious wear and tear on the body. The job involves heavy lifting, whole body vibration, lifting and twisting at the same time, and bending for prolonged periods—all of which can cause muscle sprain and strain.
Spine-saving tips: Asking for help could save your spine if you work in the construction field. If materials are heavier than 50 pounds, get help from another worker and/or use a cart. Also, use carrying tools with handles to secure a grip on odd-shaped loads.
Spine specialists consider the driving profession to be the most harmful career for your back and neck. And, they’re not just concerned about long-haul truck drivers.
“With the rise of ridehailing services like Uber and Lyft, tens of thousands of ‘amateur’ drivers each month are suddenly becoming professionals, sitting in their cars for extra hours, toting luggage, and feeling the pain,” said orthopaedic surgeon Chad Patton, MD, chair of the NASS Public Affairs Committee.
Spine-saving tips: Before you hit the gas, create a supportive driving environment. Adjust your seat to a 100-degree angle to prevent slouching, and sit close enough to the steering wheel so your elbows and knees are slightly bent. Add a pillow or rolled up towel at the small of your back for some added support.
Want more back- and neck-saving tips?
SpineUniverse has a wealth of information on workplace spine safety. Even if you don’t work in the professions listed in this slideshow, it’s still smart to understand the best ergonomic practices for back and neck health.