Be honest, how many of you have groaned when you’ve tried to get up off the sofa or found yourself trying to pick something up and only making it halfway down before grabbing your back with a sharp intake of breath? That geriatric feeling is all too familiar. We all know that we should be careful with our backs, but certainly my brain normally only kicks in with the dose of common sense, once I’ve felt that twinge. Then it’s lying on the sofa, trying to reach for a cup of tea that is fractionally too far away, feeling miserable and, quite frankly, looking ridiculous!
It’s hardly surprising that so many of us find ourselves in this position as the potential for back injury is everywhere. Sports injuries and accidents are quite obvious culprits, but the workplace has become easy pickings for that demon back injury. In fact, 33,000 back accidents occurred in the workplace in the UK last year.
Different Types of Back Injury
Back ache or pain can range from a little niggle to very debilitating pain, and can occur at any point along your spine, from your neck, all the way to your hips. The most common area is your lower back – cue back arching, rubbing and grimacing.
One of the reasons that there are so many different types of pain is that back is such a complex structure, and made up of many different tissue types. Mention a sore back when you are having a cuppa with your friends, and it won’t be long before you’ve covered a myriad of aliments and pains. There is muscular pain, herniated discs and nerve pain down the arms and legs and around the spine itself, plus all manner of pain related to the bones, ligaments and joints. You’d better pour yourself another cup of tea, because it will be a long chat if backs come up.
Common Causes of Back Injuries
The causes are as varied as the symptoms. Surprisingly, back pain occurs in those with sedentary jobs as frequently as it does in those with manual jobs. That is because posture plays a large role in back health. Slouching in chairs and driving hunched up can have a devastating affect. Stress is also implicated, as anxiety causes general muscle tension, making you more prone to injury if you move suddenly. Even sleeping isn’t safe! A sagging mattress can put your back in a bad position too. Manual handling of heavy objects without adopting safe lifting techniques can be disastrous, as can generally overdoing strenuous things.
The Impact of Back Injury on Your Life
Having had problems with my back and hips, I can vouch that it can be an awful thing to live with. It can turn you from a seemingly healthy individual to something resembling a crippled granny in no time. It’s not funny and it’s certainly not attractive. It affects every part of your life, and was responsible for 80 million days off work last year in the UK, with 7 million GP appointments being dedicated to it. It can prevent you from working, from socialising and from taking part in normal family life. There is little wonder that many people living with chronic back pain often end up from suffering with depression as a result.
Preventing Back Injury
As with all things in life, prevention is better than cure. Some steps are very simple: keep your weight within normal BMI ranges, wear sensible shoes, try to reduce your general stress levels, think before you try to lift or move something, and always adopt a safe lifting technique.
There are a number of treatments available, although because of the complexity, it can sometimes take a while to find the right one for you. If your back pain is acute (has lasted less than 6 weeks), painkillers and hot/cold compresses are recommended. If your pain has become chronic, there are more powerful painkillers available, but these can be addictive and have side effects, plus physiotherapy, osteopathy and acupuncture.
I found that physiotherapy and specialised exercise classes were wonderful. I have to admit that I wasn’t that confident when I first started out, but the eventual results were amazing. Some of the advice was so simple and yet made such a difference. The exercise classes worked on strengthening core muscles, which stabilise the back. There were also hands-on tips on lifting and bending correctly.
If you have a physically demanding job then a manual handling training course could be invaluable. These courses are available in classroom style or even online.
So next time you eye up that box, or convince yourself that you’re just as sprightly as you were 10 years ago, engage your brain before you do yourself a mischief, or much worse and adopt safe lifting techniques.
- License: Creative Commons image source
Ross Davies writing for Lebreton Health and Safety Training who offer both classroom and online manual handling training courses.