With that, let’s consider the habits to establish before and after work to help prevent back injuries while working.
Before Work: Create the following habits to make sure every day begins with a healthy back:
- Evaluate your sleep. Sleeping improperly night after night often triggers back problems. If sleep position or a poor mattress set you up for back problems at work, make necessary changes quickly. Proper sleep is one of the biggest factors for ensuring not just an injury-free back but an overall healthy lifestyle.
- Fuel and hydrate. In addition to a good night’s sleep, proper fuel and hydration go a long way in maintaining a healthy back. Properly fueled and hydrated muscles function better, are less likely to sustain injury, and recover more quickly from injury. Begin each day with a healthy breakfast and make plans for a healthy lunch. Most importantly, set yourself up for hydrating throughout the day.
- Consider the day ahead. Assess your day by considering if you’ll be sitting or standing a lot. Take preventative steps to make sure your back doesn’t get sore and stiff, and try to maintain good form throughout the day. If you’ll be doing a lot of lifting, think about how to make sure injury or strain doesn’t interfere with what you need to accomplish.
- Choose quality footwear. Inadequate or improper footwear is often the root cause of back problems. For this reason, make sure your footwear gives you the best foundation for the activity of the day. A healthy spine begins with proper form (posture), and good posture begins with the feet. While quality footwear is important with every step you take, the more steps and the more standing increase the importance of choosing quality footwear.
- Evaluate yourself. Think about the choices that promote a healthy lifestyle along with a stronger back. For some, this means getting in better physical condition or losing extra weight.. Some should develop better posture. Still others need to find ways to manage stress and avoid overexertion. Whatever area needs improvement, simple awareness each morning is the first step toward making the necessary change.
Considering how to set your work days up for back health goes a long way in preventing a potential loss of work time and productivity caused by a back injury, so make the time to consider the day ahead regularly.
After Work: When a person leaves work for the day, healthy back habits must continue with the goal of a comprehensive approach to back health leading to long-term productivity. The following healthy back tips serve to round out a 24/7 approach to preventing back injuries:
- Develop & maintain strength. Fit muscles are a lot less likely to become injured. They also can withstand more use for longer periods of time. Stay active through a variety of cardio and strength training exercise. Stretching should also be a part of any exercise program.
- Review the day. Like considering the day ahead, reviewing the day brings to mind changes needed for maintaining good back health. Were there times when your back felt fatigued at work? Perhaps you came close to over-extending yourself when lifting and need to use extra caution over the next few days. Or maybe your feet just got tired from walking or standing too long, indicating adjustments needed with footwear or workstation height. Even just considering how to vary activities within the work day or week can help prevent back injury caused by repetition.
- Give your back extra attention. Many people find regular chiropractic care and massage great ways to prevent back injuries. When back strain initially happens, often a few hot tub sessions, ice application or extra stretching effectively works out the problem. Of course, use caution with these techniques as well, and always consult a physician for serious or prolonged pain.
- Vary activity. Many jobs often require repetition with no opportunity for variety. When this is the case, consider balancing out demands on the back after work ends for the day. For example, after sitting all day make a point to be more active. If the work day involved mostly lifting, avoid that activity outside of work. Often, simply varying activity keeps back fatigue and overuse from causing a chronic back problem.
- Relieve stress. The impact of stress seems limitless at times, and our backs certainly don’t escape its reach. Whether physical or mental, stress causes tight muscles with the back and neck often first impacted. Counteract this by actively seeking ways to regularly relieve stress. Exercise certainly provides overall stress relief, but relief can come in many other forms too. Find ways to relieve stress - especially stress felt in the back during working hours - that work for you.
Because the back participates in every activity of life, even times of rest, the importance of looking at the daily habits that affect it are obvious. Through wear and tear over time as well as through immediate injuries, even a little pain or tightness to the back affects virtually everything you do. Take the time to assess what you can do before, and after after work to not only prevent back injury while working but to also maintain a healthy back knowing it impacts your life well beyond your working hours.