How to Prevent Lower Back Pain from Costing Your Business

By Michael Galvan | 04/20/2016

Lower back pain (LBP) is one of the most common and costly health problems in the United States. More than 80% of the population will experience LBP in their lives, with the peak prevalence point between age 35 and 55.1

LBP is also the leading cause of worker disability. Between the medical bills and the estimated 149 million days of work lost per year in the U.S., the combined total from direct and indirect costs of LBP is often in the billions.2

Understanding how lower back pain is developed, and how it can be prevented, can help save businesses the time and money lost to LBP every year.

How is lower back pain developed?

Lower back pain is a result of the way the spine itself is structured. The multiple parts of the spine work together to support and protect the spinal cord, as well as provide the flexibility to allow for bending and rotating.

Over time, the spine will get worn down by compressing forces that push bones and discs together, and tensile forces that pull on ligaments, tendons, and muscles. These forces can occur simultaneously when lifting objects or slouching.  For example, bending over too far and lifting heavy object can put a large amount of pressure on your spine.

There are two main types of back injuries: acute and chronic injuries. Acute injuries occur after a particular event: slips, trips and falls, heavy and/or awkward loads, and improper lifting techniques. Chronic injuries injuries are due to constant or recurring situations, like sitting or standing in awkward postures, poor physical condition, and improper body mechanics.

How is lower back pain prevented?

One of the best ways to prevent back injuries is to stretch regularly. This helps loosen up your muscles and gives your tendons extra elasticity. Warming up before a work-shift is always a good idea -- try incorporating exercises that tone the muscles in the back, hips, and thighs. Before beginning any exercise program, check with your doctor.

There are certain techniques that can help reduce chronic and acute lower back injuries.  The first is to think of your back like a lever with a fulcrum in the center, ten pounds of pressure on your back lifts ten pounds of weight. But if you shift the center point towards your waist (i.e. lifting with your lower back) it requires more force. In this case, the ration changes to 10:1, or lifting ten pounds puts 100 pounds pressure on your back. That’s why you want to bend with your knees and lift with your legs. This helps alleviate excess lower back pressure.

physical therapist can provide education on different techniques to help prevent back pain. They can also assess the workplace to ensure that it's ergonomically sound, which should help prevent future injuries. 

Here are some Do's and Do Not's to follow to prevent LBP:

  • DO stretch your muscles before lifting
  • DO wear slip resistant shoes DO get help when lifting large objects
  • DO face the way you are moving
  • DO get a good rip
  • DO plan your lifting strategy
  • DO use proper equipment like hand trucks, forklifts and dollies
  • DO push objects rather than pull.
  • DO clear a pathway
  • DO NOT lift from the floor,
  • DO NOT lift with one hand
  • DO NOT use rapid, jerky, and/or twisting motions
  • DO NOT lift loads across obstacles.

 For more tips on reducing lower back pain, talk to a Concentra workforce health expert today.

References

[1] https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Health-Wellness-Information/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics

[2] http://www.who.int/medicines/areas/priority_medicines/BP6_24LBP.pdf