Tips and Tools: Preventing Back Injuries at Work

If you have a job requiring manual labor or heavy lifting, use the following tips when lifting:

  • Lift when you're body is warm and loose - do some simple stretching exercises if necessary.
  • Ask for help! Don't lift extremely heavy items alone.
  • Use mechanical lifting devices on job sites to lift or move trees, rocks, sod, etc.
  • Slide if you can- pushing heavy objects is easier on your back. Planks and rollers can help you slide objects.
  • Instead of lifting materials directly from the ground, store them at least 12 inches off the ground.
  • Avoid jerking or twisting motions.
  • Keep your feet parted for power and stability. Bend your legs so that your leg muscles take the load (it's easier on your back).
  • Grip objects with your whole hand and keep your arms and elbows in for greater lifting power.

If you work in an office, chances are you sit most of the day, possibly in front of a computer. Use the following tips while sitting:

Practice good sitting posture: Avoid slumping your shoulders or slouching your spine. Keep the three natural curves of your back in alignment (imagine a line connecting your ear, shoulders and hips). Because the lower part of your back, the lumbar curve, takes most of the weight when you're sitting, make sure it is properly supported (a rolled up towel or sweater will do the trick).

Take a break: go for a brief walk around the office, and shift your position every 20 minutes while you're sitting. Standing places less strain on your back than sitting. There are also simple exercises you can do to stretch your back and release the tension from sitting.

For example, roll your shoulders back and reach your arms behind your back. Clasp your hands together and interlock your fingers. Gently push your chest forward. You should feel a slight stretch in your back. Then release your hands and roll your shoulders gently. You can do this while sitting or standing.

Your legs: When sitting at your desk, keep your feet flat on the floor and your knees slightly lower than your hips. Try not to cross your legs. Reduce strain on your back by tilting your pelvis forward.

Your arms: Sit close enough to your computer so that you're not leaning forward to reach your keyboard. While typing, your ankles and elbows should be at right angles (90 degrees), and your arms should be at desk level.

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