Back Pain at work

…or anywhere else! Back pain has been identified as the most common cause of activity limitation in adults under 45 years of age, and is second only to arthritis among people between 45 and 65 years of age.

Back Pain – Causes

Yes, we’re talking ‘backs’ not ‘spines’ – realise right away that we’re discussing acute, low-impact trauma leading to back pain.

If you have any reason to suspect more severe spinal injury, keep the person still and call EMS! That means we’re also not talking about degenerative changes, disk hernia, etc. It’s about First Aid & Safety Training here…. So here are the common causes of back pain at work or in the home:

  • Incorrect liftingBe safe with your back!
  • Lifting an object which is too heavy for you
  • Lifting from stooped/bent-over posture (lifting with backs and not with legs)
  • Twisting with a heavy load
  • Repetitive lifting
  • Poor posture

Mostly they are all ‘over-doing it’ affecting our backs. It could be a single action (trying to lift a very heavy load) or repeated actions that just become too much and eventually you’re injured by eg: picking up a pen while stooping over. So, before we get to the first aid treatment, let’s think about prevention – it’s an important aspect of safety training after all.

Back Pain – Prevention

Well… don’t do the things listed above! You will have heard before, “lift with your legs” and “keep a straight back” – although it would be better to say “keep your back in its natural position”. For the most part it’s not that we don’t know how to look after our backs, we just don’t do it or correct practice gets forgotten in the moment. That’s OK – we have a safety training course just for you and your backs, it’s on the bottom right hand side of this page!

Back Pain – Treatment

Again let’s reinforce the idea that we’re not talking about severe spinal injury! OK – if not:

Protect your back

1. Assess the person & history – ‘What happened’ – in particular do they have other injuries eg: bumped their head

2. Apply cold – an ice-pack (wrapped) will work well. (On for 20 min… Off for 10 min… repeat)

3. Have the person complete a ‘range of movement’ assessment (if you’re not sure, come to an OFA1 course and we’ll teach you!)

4. If there are no problems, continue the ice & consider return to work/light duties

4b. If the RoM causes increased pain or cannot be performed, send/take for further professional assessment and treatment

5 If you’re in the workplace, remember your documentation!

Back Pain – Resources

Finally, here are a few safety training resources to help you in preventing and treating back pain at work and at home.

A PDF Back Brochure from WCB discusses lifting, posture, bending, stretching as well as common causes and signs & symptoms. Well worth downloading and reading. (It’s free!)

The Back Safety Training course in our very own online training centre. Covers safe lifting practices as well as important information that all people should know about the most common back injuries.Just under $50 for an hour of interactive, online training with a certificate of completion. (Expect to have to register and pay for this one!)

Our OFA1 courses – ‘assessing and managing back injuries’ is covered in every course – come along in person and learn how to do it. (See our course schedule.)

About Tony Howarth

Tony is a First Aid & CPR Instructor Trainer with Sea 2 Sky Safety Training Services and the company founder. Tony started with the British Red Cross in 1994. Has acted as first aid attendant for hundreds of events & treated many hundreds of people as a result. He is experienced in training a wide range of courses. He previously worked as an ambulance attendant with the British Red Cross. He is now in BC as a first aid instructor, and an instructor trainer (one who trains others to become instructors) Finally, Tony works at Squamish General Hospital as the pharmacist manager when not busy training safety
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