Common Causes of Lower Back Pain in the Workplace May 10 2018
Lower back pain is one of the most common complaints from workers. The type of work that causes this strain ranges from sitting at a desk for too long with poor posture to consistent heavy lifting without the proper support. Lower back pain is often a symptom of either an already established or a developing musculoskeletal disorder (MSD). An MSD can impact your muscles, nerves, spinal disks, or joints. It’s important for employers to consider and take care of employees that frequently complain of lower back pain, as those that suffer from this are often less productive and could potentially lead to a worker’s compensation claim. In the workplace, lower back pain is categorized in two ways:
Accidental Vs. Non-Accidental Injuries
Accidental injuries are the result of a particular unforeseen circumstance or event that happens, like a load shifts unexpectantly or someone slips and falls. These types of injuries will cause immediate and obvious damage to the muscles or soft tissue.
Non-accidental injuries are those that generally a result of standard, everyday work conditions. Usually, they develop over time from repetitive motions, poor posture, or prolonged activity or a prolonged static position. These types of injuries are cumulative and will take some time to appear.
It’s difficult to attempt to completely eliminate accidental injuries since they are just that, accidents. However, there can be some forethought applied to non-accidental injuries in terms of ergonomics to prevent the accumulation of an injury over time.
5 Primary Causes of Non-Accidental Lower Back Injuries
1. Poor Posture: Failing to maintain a neutral, proper posture puts strain on the joints and muscles, especially the lower back. This damage accumulates over time and can be irreversible. A good ergonomic chair and a specialized workstation can encourage proper posture. You may also consider an ergonomic assessment of your workspace, as you may need to readjust the height of your desk or monitor.
2. Static Posture: Sitting or standing in one position for too long can put strain on your lower back if that position is not ergonomically sound. This becomes especially true if you’re sitting in a poorly designed chair. You should have support at all times to your lower back whether you’re sitting or standing. If you’re standing, consider am anti-fatigue floor mat that can reduce impact and if you’re sitting, choose a chair with proper lumbar support.
3. Heavy Lifting: This is the most common source of lower back pain, particularly in the nursing and construction fields. Manual lifting requires frequent twisting and bending and when done improperly, can cause injury. Make sure you’re using the proper tools and always use correct lifting form. If you’re feeling fatigued, try not to do any type of lifting work. You’ll be putting yourself at additional risk.
4. Repetitive Motions: Continuous repetition for certain activities, especially typing or mousing, can lead to stress injuries over time. Using a sit-stand desk and taking frequent breaks can help prevent lower back injuries as a result of repetitive motions.
5. Low Job Satisfaction or High Job Stress: Psychosocial factors like low office morale can have a significant impact on employee health. Mental stress is directly linked to physical maladies and discomfort, especially lower back pain. Therefore, it is imperative that employers address the office climate and culture at their workplace to maintain positive mental health and morale from their employees.
By eliminating or addressing the most common causes of lower back pain in the workplace, you can maintain healthier employees with increased productivity. It can also save you money from worker’s compensation claims!