How Industrial Workers Can Manage and Prevent Back Pain

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Now that we've touched on some of the effects of back pain, let's dive a little deeper:

When it comes to back pain, pain can be localized in the neck or upper back, or stem from the regions in the lower back, which is referred to as lumbago.

Low back pain is defined as pain in the area between the lowest ribs and the gluteal folds.

When you carry heavy loads, your spine helps with the lifting. When you are picking up a heavy object, the force exerted by your hands moves to the floor by passing through your wrists, elbows, shoulders, trunk, hips, knees, ankles, and then your feet. In this interconnected system, the lower back is the weakest link.

This is why lower back pain (pain that is localized to or stems from the lower back) accounts for 1/4 of all occupational injuries.

Pain could also travel along the sciatic nerve from the lower back through the hips and buttock, and can spread down each leg, which is referred to as sciatica.

If there is no specific serious condition causing lower back pain, then it is referred to as non-specific lower back pain. Non-specific lower back pain can be either acute or chronic.

1) Acute Nonspecific Low Back Pain
This pain can come on suddenly and be very intense, however this pain subsides once the underlying cause goes away or is treated. Fear, anxiety and stress can actually make this pain even worse.

Sprains and strains of the soft tissue in the back are common causes of acute back pain, especially if heavy lifting is done with improper form and posture.

2) Chronic Low Back Pain
This type of pain is pain that lasts or recurs for more than three months.
Individuals who perform repetitive work are more at risk for chronic lower back injuries. Repetitive work can cause gradual deterioration of discs and parts of the vertebrae and lead to irritation of the nerve roots that exit the spine.

Early on, it is hard to detect degenerative changes in your back. There may not be any discomfort, stiffness, pain or other symptoms, not even x-rays can detect disc degeneration.

In the later stages, you may notice pain developing more or less suddenly and spreading to the areas where nerves are irritated or impaired.

Back pain that is chronic is usually related to age, but can be the result of an injury. Here are the most common causes of chronic back pain:

  • Disc problems, like a bulging or herniated disc
  • Spinal Osteoarthritis - this is degenerative arthritis of the spine where the protective cartilage that cushions the bones starts to thin and wear out
  • Spinal stenosis - when the spinal canal which houses your spinal cord, a bundle of nerves, starts to narrow, it may lead to nerve pain 
  • Myofascial pain syndrome - tenderness or muscle pain that is unexplained

Sometimes it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of chronic back pain.

Managing and Preventing Back Pain:

Staying in shape with regular physical and aerobic exercise, strengthening your muscles including your abs, and utilizing proper lifting techniques can reduce the risk of back pain.

What will most likely reduce your risk of back pain is reconfiguring your workstation, slowing down the pace of your work, lightening your loads, and using the appropriate handling equipment.

It’s a good idea to use complementary therapies for chronic back pain as discussed in our
Chronic Pain learning series:

  • Physical therapy
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Yoga
  • Pharmacologic Treatment

Anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants and other pain medications can be used to help control chronic back pain. However, these medications are not intended for prolonged use and most do come with unwanted side effects. Medical cannabis is a safer alternative.