The month of February is known as American Heart Month. Heart-shaped paraphernalia starts lining the store shelves shortly after Christmas. More time is spent planning Valentine’s Day parties, making cut-out cookies, and looking for the right gift for that special person than actually taking care of our own health and well-being, especially when it comes to our backs.
Back pain is a serious issue. It is the most common type of pain reported by adults in the US today, and it’s the leading cause of workers compensation claims each year. According to the National Institute of Health, back pain affects 8 out of 10 people. The good news is that most back pain can be prevented. According to Humantech Vice President, Josh Kerst, 50 percent of all back injuries result from lifting. Kerst outlines 10 tips that can help prevent injuries:
- Keep work in your comfort zone, between your elbows and your knees.
- Keep the spine in line. Postures that overextend your back are likely to cause injuries.
- Alternate between sitting and standing office workstations. It is hard to maintain good posture while sitting at a desk all day.
- Minimize manual material handling. Overexertion injuries are the primary cause of disabling workplace injuries. These injuries are caused from excessive lifting, pushing, pulling, holding, or throwing.
- If you must lift, know your limits. Check out the Liberty Mutual Materials Handling Tables for guidelines.
- When lifting an object, take a wider stance and keep your spine straight. This promotes stability.
- Adhere to the 2-minute-wait rule. When lifting an object after being in a seated position (driving), or after performing activities that might involve vibration for more than 20 minutes, give your body two minutes upon standing to ‘get it ready to work’ before you lift an object. This wait allows the discs in the spine to gain fluid back and lengthen the spine.
- Use footwear with the appropriate cushion and traction. Anti-fatigue matting may also be an option.
- Maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.
- Use less muscle and more brain.
Ergonomics is designing the workstation (or product) characteristics to match human performance capabilities. By keeping work in the comfort zone (a.k.a. the hand-shake zone), and maintaining proper posture and biomechanics when performing work, you will help maintain a healthy heart, body, and back.