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Musculoskeletal injuries of the spine that occur in the workplace have grown over the past decade. Acute injuries to the spine are typically associated with lifting heavy objects improperly, or working with heavy objects in a repetitive manner or an in awkward position. Chronic causes are typically associated with a poorly designed workplace.
“The majority of work-related injuries can be avoided by the employer and/or managing staff taking the appropriate steps to educate their employees and address issues in the workplace,” says Christopher Duntsch, M.D., a neurosurgeon specializing in spine surgery on the medical staff at Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano.
Here’s what you need to know to protect your back in the workplace:
Recognize the signs and symptoms of injury. They include weakness, numbness, pain, and loss of function in the back, hip, or the extremity.
Be proactive. Signs and symptoms should be reported to a physician as soon as they begin, especially if they don’t resolve with time or if they begin to affect your quality of life.
People with an acute injury are likely to report the problem to their physician due to pain or disability. However, chronic work-related spine injuries are typically underreported. In those cases, damage to the disc and surrounding tissue can result from more subtle work-related problems such as poor lumbar support for a desk worker over many years.
If you develop signs and symptoms of back pain, report them to your employer and physician as soon as you are aware of them. The sooner treatment begins, the better.
Be smart about ergonomic design and prevention. It’s an employer’s responsibility to provide education, and to assist in improving the workplace with respect to environmental design and ergonomically favorable office equipment. The staff should know how to properly carry out certain tasks, such as lifting a heavy or awkward object, Dr. Duntsch says.
“Take the time to design the workplace in an ergonomic manner in which the workstation and its various components are positioned or improved in a manner that protects the employee,” Dr. Duntsch says. “This is especially important for those who may spend many years in certain types of postures, sitting positions, or participating in activities that can cause musculoskeletal injuries.”
Concerned about your back? Click here to learn more about spine care at Baylor Plano or get a referral to a spine specialist on the Baylor Plano medical staff.
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