From working at home to working in a warehouse, read on for some tips to help you avoid work injuries.
It’s not a secret that workers in certain occupations are more likely to get injured at work than others. But you don’t need to be digging ditches to have a workplace injury. In fact, people who spend their workday hunched over a desk are also at a high risk of work injuries.
Back problems, like low back pain and spinal degeneration, can be triggered or worsened from inactivity just as easily as they can from lifting something improperly. As more people begin to work from home, neck and back pain are becoming more common.
With these tips, you can reduce your risk of work injuries:
Lift heavy items properly
When you lift heavy boxes or other objects, make sure you’re doing it safely. Start by standing close to the object with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat down, bending your knees (not bending at the waist) and tighten your stomach muscles — imagine that someone is about to hit your stomach and your muscles will tighten to help prepare you for the lift.
“Lift with your leg muscles as you begin to stand, and pivot your feet to change directions instead of twisting your spine,” says orthopaedic spine surgeon Dr. Siddharth Badve. “When putting the object down, repeat these steps in reverse.”
Make exercise part of your routine
Because obesity places extra stress and pressure on your spine, at-home workouts are a great way to stay in shape — and keep your spine strong. Doing cardio activities, such as walking, running or biking, can help you shed lots of extra pounds.
“Core-strengthening exercises are also great for building more support for the spine,” says Dr. Badve. “If you’re working from home, schedule breaks to take a quick walk or even do a 5- to 10-minute core-strengthening exercise routine.”
Stay active at work
If you sit at a desk all day, get up and walk around every hour or so. Your back needs to move — and doing so will strengthen your muscles and help keep your spine from feeling stiff.
“If you have a conference call, try standing for part of it,” says Dr. Badve. “And remember that you can take breaks to move throughout the day.”
Make changes to your workstation
When sitting at your desk, adjust your chair to support your back and make sure you have proper lumbar support to fit the inward curve in your lower back. “Your feet should rest flat on the floor, and try not to cross your legs,” says Dr. Badve. This will help to lessen back pain.
If you sit at a computer, make sure your monitor is at arm’s length and the top of the screen is at eye level. When typing, do it lightly, keep your wrists in a neutral position — no bending up or down or to the side — and avoid resting them on the table or keyboard.
“Invest in a wrist pad for your keyboard and mouse to help lessen wrist pain,” says Dr. Badve.
When using a phone, put it on speaker for calls or wear a headset. Don’t cradle the phone between your head and shoulder when typing or writing, which can cause neck and back pain.
“Give your eyes a break from the computer screen every so often,” says Dr. Badve. “Close your eyes and refocus on objects away from your computer screen, and blink often to avoid eye strain, which can cause headaches.”
With these tips, you can help prevent getting injured at work. And if you do get injured, call your doctor and ask to see an orthopaedic specialist. “We can help you diagnose the source of your pain and create a treatment plan to get you back to feeling better as soon as possible,” says Dr. Badve.
Meet Siddharth Badve, MD
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Learn about orthopaedic surgery at Geisinger