A weblog dedicated to Ergonomics education, dicussion and debate. This emerging field has the power to transform industry, business and the lives of ordinary people for the better. The Industrial Athlete intends to encourage and document our profession's vision of an ergonomically-friendly future!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Don't Take Back Pain Lying Down

When one thinks of back pain, an old maxim springs to mind: Lie down and don't even think about doing anything active until it gets better. As it turns out, this is one of the worst things you can do, as the lack of blood flow to the injured area slows healing of the back structures, and the decrease of muscular activity weakens the back further, increasing the possibility of future injury.

Additionally, work should not be curtailed, but modified during the course of the injury. Doing so maintains the self-esteem of the worker in question, and it avoids the possibility of losing them to long-term disability. Stover H. Snook, Ph.D., CPE, in a recent article on Ergoweb, says it better than I can, so I will defer the rest of the post to him:

"... he explained that the focus should be on designing jobs for those people who will experience the back pain. If a work area is designed so that it accommodates the person with back pain, it only follows that those who don’t have back pain should be comfortable as well. More workers can do the job successfully and with minimal pain. Workers can keep working at their jobs without being moved to different positions or put at a reduced capacity. The key for industry is to remember that some workers will experience back pain no matter what, but the severity of it can probably be diminished along with disability rates.

“It starts with recognition,” says Snook. “Management should recognize that it will happen with most workers. We need to put some compassion in here.”

Addressing the workplace with this in mind is just the start, and Snook admits that ergonomics interventions will probably prevent some of the back pain. “Perhaps even more important is that it permits people to continue working,” he says. “If you can minimize the bending, you’re preventing pain or preventing the aggravation of an underlying condition, [the worker] can still continue to work.”

While all back pain may not be avoidable, ergonomically-correct design, Manual Material Handling equipment, and proper lifting technique can reduce the overall rates of injury, reduce the severity of incidents when they do occur, and allow injured workers to continue being productive at work, instead of lying on the couch at home, making their back (unknowingly) worse.


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