Low Wage Workers More Susceptible to Back Pain Says New Research

By  //  February 24, 2020

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Lower back pain costs companies in the US alone $635 billion annually in medical expenses and lost productivity. New research is cautioning low wage workers to be extra vigilant on the possibility of developing lower back pain on the job.

Lower back pain costs companies in the US alone $635 billion annually in medical expenses and lost productivity. New research is cautioning low wage workers to be extra vigilant on the possibility of developing lower back pain on the job.

Back Injuries and Income Levels

A study on housekeepers in Ethiopia suggests a link between low-income workers and back injuries.

As a profession, housekeepers share many of the characteristics of other lower-paying jobs such as frequent bending, overreaching, and standing. In the study, over 58.1% of the participants say they suffer from lower back pain.

To exasperate the issue, lower-paying jobs often do not come with medical insurance that may help with injuries developed on the job, such as chiropractic visits or massage treatments. This means workers must be especially vigilant in keeping themselves healthy.

Prevention of Lower Back Injuries

Back pain is difficult to avoid in many workplaces. Since it may not be possible to avoid a job that can trigger back pain, working to prevent it is advisable. Experts recommend the following:

• Yoga can help strengthen muscles in the back as well as other parts of the body. It can also help with flexibility and core strength.

• In the office, frequent back stretches have been found to prevent and reduce back pain, by promoting blood circulation and strengthening the back muscles, similarly to yoga.

• Avoid heavy lifting. While this is not always an option at the job, one should avoid lifting heavy objects whenever possible.

• Utilize proper lifting techniques and lift from the knees, not the back. Ask another person to help move objects that are too heavy for just one person.

• When needed, use equipment such as hand trollies and other devices to help move objects.

• Wear a back brace or other medical devices to support your body. These devices can help prevent a person from re-injuring their back or provide proper support to avoid an injury. 

• Stand and sit up straight. Proper posture helps keep the back strong. A strong back can better withstand a potential back injury. 

• Stop smoking. Smokers are at a higher risk for back injuries than the general public. Smoking prevents the flow of blood needed to muscles and tissues in the body. This lack of blood flow makes a person more susceptible to an injury.

Industry Changes that May Help

For people stuck in labor-intensive jobs, there are industry trends that may help as well.

Experts say robotics along with production ergonomics can be used to identify the riskiest parts or a work process and utilize robotics in those segments.

Examples of this include automating the packaging of boxes and equipping workers with exoskeleton suits during heavy lifting tasks.

In Conclusion

There is sufficient evidence to suggest workers in low paying jobs are more susceptible to back pain due to the often manual nature of their work, plus lack of access to healthcare.

Excessive standing, squatting, bending, and moving heavy objects are all known contributors of back pain.

To alleviate or prevent back pain, strengthening exercises such as yoga and certain types of exercises can be very helpful and implemented by workers on their own.

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