I just started a job at a car wash. I've heard that sooner or later everyone hurts their back here from constantly bending over. I really need this job. Is there some way I can keep this from happening or a quick cure if it happens to me?Estimates are high that U.S. workers will get back pain sometime in their lives. Some, but not all, are work-related. Relapses and flare-ups are common. The amount of work productivity lost can be measured in the billions. Disability and poor quality of life are long-term problems for some people.
Who's at risk and how to avoid this problem is the focus of many studies. There's plenty of evidence that emotional or psychologic stress are major factors. People who aren't happy on the job are also at increased risk.
Prevention for you may be as simple as watching your posture and body mechanics. Bend at the knees, not at the waist. Move your feet to get where you need to be. Don't overreach. Pace yourself and remember to breathe deeply and regularly -- especially if you have a tendency to hold your breath while working.
If you have to do any heavy lifting, get help. Plan the lift and count to three so that you lift at the same time. Whenever lifting, try to hold the object as close to your body as possible. Holding heavy objects out and away from the body increases the load through your arms to your spine.
Experts have not found a quick cure or one-size-fits-all treatment approach to back pain. It's clear that inactivity is not helpful. If you hurt your back, rest for a day or two, but don't stay down long. Motion is lotion and gentle movement is best -- even in the early, acute stages.
Chances are that if you like your job or you are motivated to work, a little prevention goes a long way. Your chances of back injury decrease with a positive attitude and proper prevention.
References:Steven J. Atlas, MD, MPH, et al. The Impact of Disability Compensation on Long-Term Treatment Outcomes of Patients with Sciatica Due to a Lumbar Disc Herniation. In Spine. December 15, 2006. Vol. 31. No. 26. Pp. 3061-3069.
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