To avoid chronic work-related injuries, follow these four simple rules.
Quick: Imagine getting hurt on the job. Probably what first comes to mind is something like slipping on a wet floor, breaking a bone, or dropping something heavy on your foot. But actually the most common labor-related injuries are more subtle and happen over time. About a third of injuries that occur on the job annually are caused by overexertion—the result of repetitive motions and improper lifting—while equipment and fall-related injuries each make up about 25 percent, according to the National Safety Council.
One person who is definitely not surprised by these stats is Patrick Brumfield, owner and director of St. Francisville Rehabilitation Services and manager of West Feliciana Hospital’s Rehabilitation Department. Whether your job requires you to perform heavy lifting, spend long periods of time on your feet, or sit at a desk day in and day out, you’re likely exposed to the same kinds of occupational hazards that bring people into Brumfield’s office every day. Over the course of his 25-year career, Brumfield has seen just about every kind of on-site injury. The most common cases he treats in patients are lumbar and cervical strains, carpal tunnel issues, and rotator cuff tears, he says. While considered minor injuries, if left unaddressed, each of these can cause chronic pain and require corrective surgery.
For those who’d rather avoid a trip to his office, Brumfield shares some tips for preventing the most common types of work-related injuries.
Work on strengthening your core. Whether you work in an office cubicle or an industrial setting, having strong abdominal muscles will ensure your spine is aligned, making you less prone to injury, and strengthening your posture and lumbar support. “Wearing a back brace while working is actually not a good thing, because you’re not using your core muscles,” Brumfield says. Click here to learn what exercises you can do to help strengthen your core.
Ensure you’re using correct form if you lift heavy loads. Using appropriate lifting technique is a must in order to avoid straining your lower back when exerting yourself. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and slowly lift by straightening your knees and hips. Consult a health professional for industry-specific form to avoid injury. “We educate on proper posture, body mechanics, lifting techniques, and any work site ergonomics or modifications that may be needed,” Brumfield says.
Feeling sore after sitting all day? Look into scheduling a worksite ergonomic assessment. If you experience back, shoulder, wrist, or neck soreness at the end of your workday, it can likely be attributed to your ergonomic setup. Brumfield suggests arranging a worksite ergonomic assessment, in which a health professional visits and surveys your workplace, and offers recommendations based on factors such as chair and desk height. Small adjustments, like getting a new office chair or switching to a standing desk, can have a major impact on your body and health, he says. To schedule an assessment, contact St. Francisville Rehabilitation Services at 225-635-2448.
Take breaks to stretch and strengthen certain muscle groups. Stretching is at the top of Brumfield’s preventative maintenance list, and for good reason. If your occupation requires repetitive motion, such as typing or hammering, remember to take frequent breaks and stretch the muscles being used. For people who are seated the majority of the day, he emphasizes stretching and strengthening the front chest muscles, the muscles behind the neck, the muscles along the spine, and the scapular muscles. “These exercises help maintain an upright and erect posture,” he says. Those performing manual labor would benefit from stretching and strengthening the hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps in the legs; upper back muscles; and the abdominal and shoulder muscles.