Work Activity Is Frequent Cause of Back Pain

Back pain

Musculoskeletal conditions are among the most costly injuries in the workplace, leading to medical expenses, worker absenteeism and lost productivity. Among musculoskeletal problems, lower back pain seems to extract the heaviest toll. According to new research, lower back pain is the single biggest cause of musculoskeletal disability in the world.

Scientists at the University of Sydney used the data from 187 countries recorded between 1990 and 2010. The scientists estimated that lower back pain from ergonomics exposure at work caused 21.7 million disability-adjusted life years. The term “disability-adjusted life years” refers to the number of years of healthy life lost due to a disability.

Approximately 26% of the worldwide population suffered lower back pain in 2010. From 1990 to 2010, there was a 22% increase in lower back pain-related disability adjusted life years. The increase was due to population growth, the researchers said. Rates of lower back pain-related disability have actually been dropping.

The prevention of lower back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions is a worthwhile goal for any workplace. Many jobs require physically strenuous work, often involving the same type of activity over and over again for a long period of time. Stooping, bending, crouching and twisting or turning the upper torso can cause lower back pain.

The research finds that the risk of such injuries is highest in the agricultural sector. However, activities that can cause lower back pain are routine in manufacturing, construction, and other sectors.

Tips to Prevent Musculoskeletal Injury

As an employee, you can take steps to prevent musculoskeletal injuries:

  • Maintain an ideal healthy weight.
  • Wear comfortable shoes while working.
  • Sleep in the right position. Awkward sleeping positions can increase strain on your muscles.
  • Quit smoking, and eat healthy.
  • Exercise frequently to keep back muscles healthy, flexible and strong.

Employers also can help reduce musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace:

  • Invest in training programs that teach workers the right way to perform critical workplace activities. Focus on the proper way to lift and carry loads. Lifting and carrying often contribute to stress and strain on the lower back and other muscles, increasing the risk of injury.
  • Invest in automation to help perform certain physically strenuous activities to reduce worker injury risks.
  • Modify work schedules so that workers who are engaged in repetitive activity get frequent rest breaks.

Source: British Medical Journal

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