Back pain is one of several musculoskeletal problems common in the workplace. These kinds of problems usually involve the spine, arms, legs, neck, and back. Lower back pain is one of the oldest workplace health problems.
At any given minute, 14% of American adults experience back pain and every year about 2% of working Americans lose time from work due to back pain. Back pain is the second most common reason for work absence and it is also the most expensive.
But why do so many people have back problems? The cause of most lower back pain is still undetermined. Some evidence show that such pain is caused by changes in the spine, usually as one gets older. These changes lower the resistance of the spine to heavy workloads.
The most common types of lower back pain are lumbar insufficiency, lumbago, and sciatica. The symptoms of lumbar insufficiency are fatigue, stiffness, or pain in the lower back. Bending forward on the job can cause this problem. Lumbago is a more intense pain in the lower back that usually incapacitates the worker.
Sciatica is pain that moves down the legs and is frequently associated with numbness or tingling in the feet and toes. Muscle spasms often accompany lower back pain. Certain kinds of jobs tax backs more than others. Lower back pain is most frequent in construction, mining, transportation, and manufacturing.
The job that burden backs the most are the ones that require heavy lifting, awkward positions, or postures held for a long time. Lower back pain goes away eventually in over 90% of cases. However, it often returns to haunt the patient. In many cases, bed rest, exercises, and restricted activity are enough to treat back problems.
If this does not work than surgery is necessary. Strategies for preventing back problems include job design, proper job selection, and education about proper lifting. To reduce back problems, a job can be designed to combine sitting and standing, to use mechanical aids to assist with lifting, and to reduce unnecessary bending, twisting, and reaching. It is estimated that good job design could reduce up to one-third of back injuries.