DID YOU KNOW … according to a worker’s compensation statistics report in 2016 that the bodily location MOST commonly affected by injuries & diseases that led to serious claims in the is the BACK?
There are so many different levels of stress that we can put on our back and spine in any given workplace or environment. Obviously, someone that works in a manual labour role has a much higher chance of causing an injury to their spine than the average white-collar worker.
However, a spinal injury in the workplace can happen at any given time or place, depends on so many different variables and the different levels of stress that we put our spine under.
The principles of keeping your spine healthy in your business or the workplace are the same no matter what industry you are in. It ALWAYS starts with core strength, building core strength is the number one rule to a healthy spine, protection of the spine and prevention of injury.
Second to core stability is having an understanding of alignment principles and how they impact the spine in the given role, position or physical stress that you are in.
Posture is posture, no matter the environment or physical position such as sitting or standing, there is good and bad postures in all of these positions that can harm us by causing Injury.
The most common posture that people relate to is a standing posture. However, in my experience I have found that people don’t realise that a healthy posture applies to every position that we are in, whether we are sitting, standing, filing, zooming or digging a hole,
Posture is really about correct ‘alignment’ and in terms of keeping your spine healthy it means to build awareness of, build mobility of every joint, work on building muscular strength, stability and postural alignment working from the base of neutral postures.
We need to build all strength AND awareness from a from a neutral base in order to keep our spine (and all joints) healthy. An aligned neutral posture is a term that we use in Pilates in regards to a correct anatomical position.
As said above we want to be keeping our body in a neutral posture or position in all the different work scenarios as this will negatively impact the spine and joints as little as possible.
When we are in a neutral posture there is the least amount of stress on the joints, muscles, tendons and in particular spine vertebrae and discs. It is this postural alignment that the muscles function at their best and support the whole muscular skeletal system.
The spine can be put under load with or without extra weight or stressors applied, you DO NOT have to be digging a hole to load and damage your spine.
It is actually healthy for a spine to be under load but it needs to be the right kind of load and you have to have a sufficient amount of core strength and stability to keep the spine safe from injury.
Building strength of both the deep core stabilizers and the superficial global muscles work hand in hand in supporting healthy load of the vertebrae. When we load the spine in a healthy way it actually stimulates the inter intervertebral discs so that they remain mobile, hydrated and healthy.
An example of a typical scenario of potential overloading the spine is if you picture a person digging a hole. Provided this person has the correct amount of core strength in order to activate the surrounding and supporting muscles to lengthen the spine as much as possible in this loaded position, the spine will stay safe.
Dependant on the job at hand, if possible this person also needs to ensure that they have their spine in a neutral position and they are activating the surrounding supporting muscles eg: the glutes, all hip muscular, spinal extensors (the powerhouse as Jo Pilates used to call it) then this ideal position under theses circumstances creates a situation of ‘healthy spinal load’ in the workplace.
Anything less than all of the above over time will create a dysfunction in the movement, putting pressure on all joints, muscles and cause a threat of injury to the spine. The body is a whole and needs to be treated as such in order to keep us physically safe in the workplace and life in general.
Loading the spine in a continual out of neutral sitting position can cause degenerative damage over time. I am sure you have heard someone you know, or maybe even yourself say “oh I just turned a particular way and then my back just went out “
This is generally because they or you had been building a dysfunction and or degeneration over time and it was just the right time for it to turn into an injury. Usually because of a lack of core stability, incorrect postural alignment, timing of the perfect storm of a repetitive position that just went wrong.
Spinal injury in the workplace usually presents by way of a disc bulge, herniation, a slipped disc or worse a spine fracture. Any of these types of injuries are mostly preventable with the right knowledge and support.
Ergonomics in an office environment is everything, and it all starts with, you guessed it – posture. Following are a few basic tips to help ensure that you keep your spine healthy in the sitting desk position. If you want to learn more, I can deliver a workplace ‘Healthy Backs ‘training.
• The feet are placed evenly on the floor so that the knees are in line of the hips.
• Use an ergonomic foot rest if legs are too short and knees fall below the hips.
• Use correct lumbar support, a small lumbar arch is required.
• Keep pelvis in neutral (sit tall on sit bones)
• Eye level is in the middle of screen
• Sufficient depth of vision when looking at screen so that you are not reaching your head forward to look at the screen.
• Shoulders are not bunched up, they are in neutral position
• Elbows are approximately at a 45-degree angle and the joints are in a comfortable position
One of the main problems that causes injury is the very fact that the individual has allowed their physical body to deteriorate and or they may have pre-existing condition such as a scoliosis or old sports injury that can contribute to a potential workplace injury.
Safety and preventing injury of the physical body in the workplace is a shared responsibility. No amount of money spent on the latest and greatest of workplace ergonomics will prevent degeneration of the spine and or injury if the individual does not play their part in self-care, awareness and self-responsibility.
I implore all workplaces and team members to build awareness of the preventable nature of a potential spinal injury in the workplace, it is a 2-way street.
In many cases damage to the spine is irreversible depending on the level of severity and the level of pain and suffering can be immense to the individual. Whether an injury is caused at the workplace or not, the cost of a spinal injury is huge to both the individual and workplace alike.
The cost to the individual is pain, suffering, loss of income, home stress, mental health, the cost of remedial therapies and potential surgery.
The cost to business is potentially huge; workers compensation, Insurance, sick days, sick leave, productivity losses, rehiring of replacement staff, HR costs and more.
I implore you to TAKE ACTION before an injury happens to you or one of your team members in your business or workplace. Apply preventable measures such as workplace wellbeing programs, strategies, education, training and quality ergonomics they will all go a long way towards creating a caring environment that values people and their spines.
Please feel free to make contact with me to discuss how I can help you and your business prevent loss, spinal injury, pain and suffering.
Yours in a strong body and mind
💥 BUILDING STRONG HEALTHY PEOPLE, BUSINESSES & WORKPLACES FROM THE INSIDE OUT 💥
Sandra Leigh specialises in helping business owners, remote workers and workplaces build strong healthy habits from the inside out.