Fatigue for Working at a Stretch Indicates The Risk of Back Injury /Pain; Have Frequent Breaks as Prevention

Fatigue for Working at a Stretch Indicates The Risk of Back Injury /Pain; Have F

Many occupations — such as nursing, construction and factory work — may place significant demands on your back. The most common cause is using your back muscles in activities you're not used to, like lifting heavy furniture or doing yard work.Even routine office work can worsen back pain if you fall into risky habits. Back pain can develop in association with a number of causes, including muscle strain , injury to the back, overuse, muscle disorders, pressure on a nerve root, poor posture, and many others. Pregnant women, smokers, construction workers, and people who perform repetitive lifting all have increased risk of back pain.


The human spine and associated muscles and other soft tissues are vulnerable to some types of injury. A slipped disk (also called a herniated disk) happens when a disk between the bones of the spine bulges and presses on nerves. This is often caused by twisting while lifting. The low back in particular is prone to injury, as it is both highly flexible, allowing us to bend and twist in all directions, and subject to a great deal of stress as the main load-bearer of the torso.While many instances of back pain can be traced to a specific injury (e.g. a muscle strain), often the acute onset of back pain is actually a result of a long term process of general degeneration, such as degenerative disc disease or a spinal disc herniation.

Preventing back injury is a major workplace safety challenge. According to the American Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year, and back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses.This is an important, common problem and the annual cost of treating this pain runs in the tens of billions of dollars.

People who lift boxes and packages all day need to take longer and more frequent breaks to avoid suffering a back injury, research suggests. This is especially true for people new to the job.

Confirming prior research, the study also indicates that the risk of back injury is greatest towards the end of a work shift when fatigue sets in.

With funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. William Marras and colleagues in the Biodynamics Laboratory at Ohio State University had four new and six experienced workers lift boxes onto conveyor belts for 8 hours, as one would do working in a shipping center. The boxes weighed 2, 11, and 26 pounds. The workers took a half hour lunch break and two 15-minute breaks.

During their shift, the workers wore oximeters on their lower back -- a device that measures through the skin the amount of oxygen reaching the muscles, an indicator of how hard the muscles are working and whether they are becoming fatigued.

Marras and colleagues found that the back muscles needed more oxygen as the workday progressed. During the first two hours of lifting, the workers oxygen level rose to 11 percent above their resting level. During the next two hours, the oxygen level rose to 13 percent above resting.

Taking a half-hour lunch break helped the muscles recover from the morning exertion, with oxygen levels returning to resting level, but once back on the job, the workers' oxygen needs rose steeply and kept climbing throughout the afternoon, reaching a peak level of 16 percent above resting level during the last two hours of the work day.

"Their muscles were becoming fatigued much faster during the afternoon and we known that fatigue increases the risk of back injury," Marras said. "The only way to counteract that effect is with more breaks as the day goes on."

The two 15-minute breaks, one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon, helped the back muscles recover somewhat, but not as much as the 30-minute lunch break.

The researchers also noticed that novice workers, when they got tired, tended to tense up their muscles, preventing proper blood flow and oxygenation. Their muscles also needed more oxygen than the muscles of the experienced workers.

"The bottom line is that it's much more costly from a physiological standpoint for novices to do the same work as experienced people," Marras said.

Your best bet in preventing back pain and injury is to be as fit as you can be and take steps to make your work and your working environment as safe as possible :

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