Lifting and Lower Back Pain
Improper lifting is a common cause of lower back pain (LBP). This can strike anyone at anytime. Patients are seen on a daily basis who have hurt themselves while lifting. This can occur at work, home or during recreational activities. It has been reported that 80% of the population at some stage in their life will suffer from LBP. Research has had a hard time zeroing in on the exact causes of lower back pain, but consensus seems to point to the mechanics of the lift as a significant contributing factor to the onset. This subject is so extensive and ever evolving, we strive to keep current. Employers and health care providers caring for the injured worker need to keep up to date with research. Keeping current will benefit both the employee and employer. This article briefly touches on good lifting mechanics and ergonomic recommendations to minimize reoccurrence.
Risk Factors for Lower Back Pain
There are people who have an inherent risk for lower back pain or have habits that increase this risk. These can include the following:
- Smoking – It has been theorized that coughing from smoking increases the pressure on the intervertebral disc contributing to disc herniation. Blood flow is interrupted from smoking by constricting the small arteries to the disc and this contributes to the degenerative process. The possibility that this will accelerate osteoporosis contributing to LBP has also been stated by researchers.
- Genetics – Research studies have shown disc degeneration may have a familial relationship.
- Occupation – Common activities that have been related to lower back pain include frequent bending, heavy lifting, twisting and whole-body vibration. Industrial lifting has been stated by researchers to be the second greatest cause of LBP.
- Obesity – Studies have demonstrated that poor physical activity and being overweight are risk factors for lower back pain. However, it has also been demonstrated that losing weight with exercise has been helpful. Most of the conclusions reached are that it’s the exercise component in conjunction with losing weight that helps to control and eliminate lower back pain.
- Socioeconomic status – An interesting study out of Norway outlined how lower economic status seemed to invite more non-inflammatory muscular back problems than those found in more affluent neighborhoods.
- Diet/Nutritional supplements – Research has shown nutricuticals (vitamins/minerals) have a positive effect on back pain.
- Psychological status – There is extensive literature outlining the relationship between one’s emotional state and back pain.
- Previous Low Back Injury – Researchers have found that multiple lower back injuries contribute to further lower back episodes.
- Sedentary Jobs – These can also contribute to lower back pain. Computer work station design and chairs may be causing factors.
- Yard and Garden Work – Improper lifting, repetitive bending and carrying heavy objects after being inactive during the week can frequently contribute to a back injury occurring over the weekend.
How Does Lifting Contribute to Lower Back Pain?
This is an expansive subject that has been and continues to be studied by researchers. Believe it or not, there are multiple variables and conclusions from their studies. Research has concluded a number of actions or functions at work that may contribute to causing lower back pain in the workplace.
- Overexertion with the lift – Lifting, holding or carrying a heavy weight
- Improper lifting posture – One of the leading causes of industrial lower back pain
- Worker fatigue – Without periodic breaks from lifting tasks, muscle fatigue contributes to increased chances of lower back injury.
- Little or no instruction in proper lifting techniques – Safety meetings on bending, lifting and carrying techniques should be mandated prior to employment and in periodic intervals.
- Returning to work too quickly after lower back injury – An adequate amount of time and rehabilitation is necessary.
- Failure to fit job requirements to the employee – Height of work benches and the weight, size and amount of material being lifted would be best served by trying to match the task to the size, height, strength and ability of the worker.
There are many variable causes that produce lower back pain or contribute to its development. The first goal is to reduce the causes of back pain whether they occur at work, in the home, during recreation or while performing other activities of daily living. Communication with your health care providers will help them to understand the mechanism of injury and allow them to begin a course of treatment. Finding a provider that has knowledge about back care is important for recovery. An employer’s ergonomic department should review the worksite for any potential for injury. A health care provider(s) can be asked to provide guidance if they have experience in workplace safety and injury prevention.
A simple posture and lifting mechanism called “nose-and-toes” alignment is helpful in reducing lower back pain.
Education of the employer and employee regarding lifting protocols has been shown to have a positive effect on reducing low back injuries.
The doctors at Coon Rapids Chiropractic Office have experience in working with employers and employees for low back care and safety.
Call for an appointment : (763) 755-4300