A Look Into Spinal Health for May

Aussie tradies are known to be rough and tough, working hard and playing harder. 

Because of this tough exterior, tradies often push through the pain and keep going, even when they feel a slight twinge in the back. 

But pushing through the pain can lead to something a lot worse, leaving tradies at risk of acute and chronic back pain, resulting in agony and struggling to bend, walk, drive, and lift.

As a tradie, you know that you need to look after your tools, and your biggest and most important tool is your body. It’s essential to listen to your body to avoid risking your livelihood.

20% of workplace injuries are back injuries, and this is particularly high amongst tradies thanks to the physical demand that the job places on your body. 

From herniated discs to decompressed vertebrae, sciatica, and pulled muscles, your spinal health is something you probably wouldn’t give a thought to until you’re in pain. 

Getting into the Bones of It

Back injury can be caused by a single event but is often something that builds up over time. It can be caused by manual handling, repetitive or heavy lifting, sudden movements, lack of exercise, poor posture, and muscle tension.

Years of physical labour take a toll on the body, so it’s in your best interest to encourage your staff to take care of their health to minimise injury, downtime, and workers’ comp payouts. 

It might be a worthwhile investment to subsidise or incentivise healthy living for your trade staff to protect them and your business. 

“Back” to the Future

Often, a back complaint will be recurring, and you may have back problems for life, causing regular bouts of pain and needing treatment, especially if you don’t take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Being a tradie business owner, it’s likely that you’ve already got safe lifting training in place for your staff. Still, it’s helpful to know what kinds of injuries can occur on the job so you can train against it and avoid the hefty payouts that come from having a staff member injured on the job. 

Safe lifting should be common sense– strain on the lumbar spine and surrounding muscles are inevitable when bending and lifting improperly. Be sure to encourage your staff to bend from the hips to protect the spine. 

It’s also a good idea to encourage your staff to work on their core strength to ensure the internal support needed to lift without injury to the spine. 

Unfortunately, some people are more prone to spine and back injuries. For example, osteoarthritis is genetic, and people don’t often know they have it until they’re already injured. 

Another cause of back pain can be degenerative disc disease, which tends to come with age anyway but can be exacerbated by other injuries. 

If you have a bulging or herniated disc, you may find yourself dealing with sciatica. The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back, through the glute, down the back of your leg to your heel. The pain can be debilitating and interfere with your daily function due to the extreme pain levels. 

Nip it in the “Back”

It’s a good idea to ensure that you’re eating a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet. It isn’t a quick fix but can be helpful in the long run. As well as keeping inflammation down, it also contributes towards maintaining a healthy weight, which is also vital to keeping back pain at bay.

Sleep is also another significant factor in ensuring the health of your spine. Sleeping on your side is the optimal way to sleep to reduce the pressure on your spine. Putting a pillow between your knees can help keep pressure off your lower back. Make sure you have a good mattress, or at least a good mattress topper. It makes all the difference being able to get a good nights’ rest. 

Stretching and core strengthening for just 15 minutes a day, before and after work, can help keep your spine strong, keeping away those pesky aches and pains. 

When you’re at work, it’s important to keep your spinal health in mind. To protect your back, consider altering your lifting technique, ensuring that you have help when lifting heavy objects, stretching before and after the workday, and concentrating on your posture. 

As an Employer, it is vital to ensure the risks of your work causing back injuries are managed. You must address Manual Hazardous tasks in your procedures, ensure your workers are trained in how to undertake correct lifting and other tasks that can cause these types of injuries. Each regulator has guidance available as does Safe Work Australia. You can find the regulator guidance for each state as follows: QLD, NSW, SA, VIC, TAS, NT, WA

Posture has a profound effect on spinal health. If you’re sitting incorrectly, you’re putting unnecessary strain on the spine. When you’re driving, keep your seat in an upright position and place a small pillow behind your back, and if you’re working at a desk, ensure that you’re sitting ergonomically

Stress and anxiety can also cause back pain due to a change in breathing and the release of stress hormones (cortisol). Do what you can to keep your stress levels as low as possible because you don’t want to add to your chances of hurting your back. 

Finding out the cause of your symptoms is vital to ensure that you’re being treated correctly. An x-ray, MRI or CT scan will show your doctor what the cause is. They can then suggest the appropriate treatment, including physiotherapy, chiropractic therapy, CT led epidurals/ cortisone into the affected part of the spine, spine decompression, or even surgery. 

If you’re looking for more guides and advice to keep your tradie business compliant with Workplace Health and Safety, follow OHS Compliance Solutions on Instagram. We also have Manual Hazardous Tasks covered in our WHS Manuals and SWMS.

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