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Watch You Back

Work-related back injuries are among the most common injuries that lead to lost workdays, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of the 1.5 million injuries and illnesses that resulted in lost workdays in 2001, more than four out of 10 cases were sprains and strains, most of which involved the back.

In order to avoid lower back injuries while lifting or performing other physical work:

  • Keep lifted objects close to the body at waist level. Balance loads evenly with both arms.
  • Get help if the load is too bulky or heavy to lift alone, or split it into smaller or lighter loads.
  • Take rest breaks to stand up, change position and stretch. Break tasks into shorter segments.
  • Avoid twisting, bending and reaching while lifting. Instead, rotate the entire body.
  • If lifting or moving a load, bend with the knees not the back.

Lifestyle changes also can ward off back injuries. Workers should:

  • Exercise regularly to keep their back and abdominal muscles strong and flexible, and build activity tolerance.
  • Choose healthy foods and maintain a proper weight.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay well hydrated.
  • Avoid smoking because it reduces the blood and fluid flow to the spine.
  • Get sufficient sleep every day, and sleep on their sides or backs.