Every year, over 450,000 people in the UK suffer from work-related musculoskeletal disorders, many of which originate in the spinal area. There are also millions of people suffering from lower-level chronic back and neck pain that causes significant hardship in their lives.
Many of these conditions could be avoided.
Throughout the average day (and even during sleep) we're constantly putting some level of pressure on our spines. Simple actions such as sitting down or walking can cause wear and tear on our spines over time, especially if our postures aren't great. Manual handling is another danger area for the spine. If we haven't had the correct training and don't know how to lift correctly, we can risk long-term spine damage and back pain.
Sitting for Long Periods
Most office workers spend a lot of time sitting stationary at their desks every week. When engrossed in a task, it can be hard to make time during the day to get up from our chairs and walk around, but even a five minute walk at regular intervals can be beneficial. Getting active during lunch breaks is a great way to relieve pressure on the spine – and keep healthy in lots of other ways, too.
Workers who spend a lot of time sitting down should perform stretching exercises when they're able to, keeping all of their muscles sufficiently active and stretched and avoiding that uninterrupted pressure.
Conducting Manual Handling Tasks
Manual handling, whether performed by someone who does it regularly or as a one-off event, can be dangerous if it's not done properly. Any task involving lifting, lowering, carrying, pushing or pulling is a risk and requires good quality training for the employee involved.
Knowing the correct technique is very important. If the task can be carried out without manual handling – for example, by using lifting equipment – this should be done to cut down the risk of injury.
Driving for Long Periods
Whether driving is a major part of your role or an occasional thing, long journeys can be a risk for musculoskeletal problems. Staying in one place for an extended period of time and performing repetitive movements, such as pressing the clutch to change gears, can cause undue pressure on the spine. All drivers should make appropriate adjustments to the position of their seat to make sure their backs are well-supported.
Taking breaks at least every two hours is very important on long journeys. Not only does this help with pressure on the spine and muscles, it is essential for staying alert and safe on the roads.
Standing for Long Periods
Since standing is such a natural position, it's easy to forget that it, too, can put pressure on the body.
If you stand a lot for work, try to avoid staying in the same position for too long, and take regular breaks. Avoid sudden or unnatural changes to your position, such as unnecessary bending or stretching.
Whatever you do at work, taking a bit of time to learn about spinal health can be valuable, and make these sorts of health problems less likely to arise further down the line.
Spinal Awareness eLearning from DeltaNet International
Our Spinal Awareness eLearning courses encourage learners to "take 5" to learn about: Understanding your Spine, Managing the Risks of Spinal Injury, Improving your Posture and Stretching Exercises.
The Spinal Awareness Take 5 courses join our suite of Manual Handling courses.