Friday, September 17, 2010

Three Easy Tips to Avoid Back Injuries at Work While Lifting

Back injuries are by far the most common injuries we see in our Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Law Practice. If you sustain a back injury, you may incur medical bills, you may miss work, and most importantly, you may be in pain. If you sustain an injury in the course and scope of your employment in Minnesota, workers’ compensation provides you with various benefits to help you get back on your feet, including medical benefits, wage loss benefits, permanency benefits, and rehabilitation benefits.

The majority of work-related back injuries involve lifting. A lifting-related back injury can cause muscle injury, when too much stress on the back muscles during a lift cause tiny tears which is known as a muscle strain or sprain. Muscle injuries to the back can be very painful, and can make it difficult to move normally. Thankfully, muscle strains and sprains typically heal. Lifting injuries to the back can also cause disc injuries. Intervertebral discs act like ball bearings and cushions between the vertebrae in the spine. Discs are fibrous rings which can bulge, tear, or rupture when they are injured. A disc injury may cause low back pain which radiates down into the buttocks and/or into the leg. Improper lifting can also cause injury to the joints in the back. These joints may become irritated, or they may become “locked.”

From Spine Health, here are three easy rules to avoid back injury during lifting activities:

1. Keep the chest forward. Bend at the hips, not your low back. Bending at the knees alone will not keep your back straight. Instead, keep your chest pointing forward to keep your back straight. The back muscles will then be used most effectively for maintaining good posture.

As an example, we represented a Minnesota paramedic who was lifting a patient on a stretcher. There was a mis-communication between our client and her partner who was lifting the other end of the stretcher, so when the lift started, she was hunched over and did not have her knees bent. She sustained a disc injury that ultimately required surgery.

2. Lead with the hips, not the shoulders. Twisting during lift is an easy way to injure our back. Your shoulders should be kept in line with your hips to avoid twisting movements. Leading with your shoulders allows your lower back and pelvis to twist, which can cause injury to the low back and pelvis.

Our office represented a warehouse worker who was palletizing boxes of product. He twisted as he was moving a box of product from the production line to the pallet and sustained a severe strain/sprain to his back. Thankfully, his condition resolved with conservative treatment.

3. Keep the weight close to the body. The farther an object is held from one’s center of gravity, the more force that is required to hold the object up. This extra force will also run through the low back. The closer you hold an object to yourself when lifting, the less force that is required, and the less likely you are to injure your back.

We assisted a gentleman who was a desk attendant at a hotel. He went to retrieve luggage for a customer, and stretched out, around a doorway to grab the handle of the luggage. The bag was much heavier than he expected, and he sustained an injury to his low back. He is currently undergoing a variety of conservative treatments to try to resolve his back and leg pain without undergoing surgery.

If you’ve sustained a lifting injury to your back in the course and scope of your employment, you may be entitled to Minnesota Workers’ Compensation benefits. Contact us at Meuser & Associates, by calling us at 877-746-5680 or click here to send us an email for a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our MN workers’ compensation attorneys.
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