Reflecting on Personal Cost of an Injury

This week ended on a revelatory note for me.

As the Quality Control Manager here at F.I.T., the Backsafe® Injury Prevention company, I’ve read our various articles and newsletters about debilitating back pain from sprain/strain injuries and wondered about it. I’ve tried to imagine what it might be like to have an injury that devastating. Of course my imaginings are never close to the real thing.

I have a fairly sedentary job and I’m a mom of an almost two-year old. I don’t consider myself at high risk for workplace injuries. I still try to incorporate the Backsafe® stretches, lifts and safety precautions whenever and wherever possible. In fact, I was originally going to write about how often I bend and lift things during the day. I was even going to count how many times a day I picked up my daughter (almost 30 lbs now), her toys, placed her into and out of the car, stayed bent over for a prolonged period of time (bath time – the worst!). That idea quickly dissipated. You try keeping count when you are running after little miss funny pants!

Instead, I had an injury of my own this week (not by choice, of course). Luckily it was relatively quickly remedied and not back related. But it had quite an impact on me – not simply because it was excruciatingly painful, but because of how much I was not able to do. How much I was not able to be there for my kiddo, play with her, laugh with her, or even smile for her sometimes. Not to mention how much her good little heart was trying to help me, though there wasn’t much she could do (we decided hugs were best). It was heart wrenching!

Now that I am well again, and can think a bit more clearly, I can look at and fully appreciate the idea of prevention. It was the accumulation of many little things that led up to my injury, much like sprains and strains in the workplace. Prevention is a novel idea with regard to workplace injuries. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have never had an injury to begin with? How much time, money, energy, and upset could be spared by completely avoiding that situation? Sadly, it sometimes takes an incident to bring the idea of prevention to the forefront.

It’s always good to be reminded of the blessings we have. Backsafe training is one of those blessings for me. To me it’s one thing that I feel empowered to do to keep myself healthy and present for the ones that are most important to me. That is a priceless value in my eyes.

By Julie Villinsky, Quality Control Manager, Future Industrial Technologies

Comments: 1 Comment

Bad Knees and Lifting Objects

Posted June 6, 2012 by backsafe®

Categories: Injury prevention, Safe lifting, safety tips, Uncategorized 

Tags: Bad knees, golfer's lift, Injury prevention, proper lifting, Safety, supported lift

“My knees hurt. It’s hard for me to lift properly…” Knee issues are very common but there are ways to protect your back AND be kind to your knees when lifting at work or at home!

While teaching over 1 million employees how to prevent back and shoulder injuries we often times have to teach alternative lifting techniques.

The facts of the matter are some people have knee pain or are in some state of de-conditioning and can’t perform textbook biomechanical movements.

Unfortunately if our legs don’t allow us to go to the floor to pick up a box, we end up bending over at the waist and using our backs to lift instead of our legs.

The “proper” way to lift is:

Keep your back straight

Head up

Use your legs to elevate

Keeping your back “straight” maintains your spine’s natural curves and protects your disks and other aspects of your back’s anatomy. This is accomplished by keeping your head up when lifting.

Supported Lift

Safety Tips For Bad Knees

For heavier items, such as a box: turn it on one of its ends first to raise the box’s center of gravity so you don’t have to stoop as low. Also, if you are yourself stacking or storing items, put the heavier ones on top so a deep squat will be unnecessary when retrieving it later.

Golfer’s Lift

Lifting something with a handle, such as a suitcase, grocery bags, laundry bag, etc? Try a supported lift. Grab the handle and while lifting, support your weight using the other hand on your thigh.

Lighter items like a small grocery bag or even a stray sock, you can use a golfer’s lift.

Hopefully these safety tips will help preserve your knees and your back. Let us know how they work out for you!

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Backsafe® Driving or Are We There Yet?

Posted April 26, 2012 by backsafe®

Categories: Backsafe, Stretching, Uncategorized 

Tags: cars, exercise cards, family vacation, health, road trip safety, travel, vacation

Summer is just around the corner and of course that means many families are planning vacations. Vacations often involve road trips—traveling longer distances than usual. Add in some extra summer activities and a stressed out and painful back can result!

Here are a few tips to consider when spending a lot of time in your vehicle:

Any sustained posture for long periods of time isn’t ideal for your body. Changing your seat position from time to time can help prevent irritating discomfort.

At least every 2 hours get out of your car and move around a little to help get your blood flowing and to relieve stress from being in a sustained sitting posture.

When getting out of the car, do not twist especially while bent at the waist.

Immediately after getting out of your car, do the following simple stretches:

Back extensions: these reverse the sitting posture, thus relieving stress.

Chest extension: When driving your arms are holding on to the steering wheel. The chest extension is the reverse posture to this and can give you much relief–and even help you to breathe more deeply.

Hamstring stretch: When we sit, our hamstrings shorten. Tight hamstrings can affect our backs. Stand approximately 3 feet from your car with your legs straight–shoulder width apart. With your hands on the car for support, bend forward at the waist with your head level, looking straight ahead. This will help your hamstrings return to normal length and help protect your back.

Take advantage of those ubiquitous rest areas to let the kids out and run off some pent-up energy. Let the children join in on the stretches. Each family member could even take a turn leading the stretch session! You will all arrive at your destination with less stress, more energy and family vacation experiences already underway!

Need a handy laminated reminder card of these stretches plus a few others? It even folds up to a convenient wallet size! F.I.T. has them in stock! Check out the Backsafe® website for more info.

Comments: 2 Comments

It’s SPRINGtime! Get out to the garden…safely!

Posted April 11, 2012 by backsafe®

Categories: Backsafe, Ergonomics, Gardening, Injury prevention, Shoveling, Stretching, Uncategorized 

Tags: exercise, health, healthy-living, plants

It is that time of year when the veil of winter gives way to sunshine and the growing season.

Digging, wheel barrowing, lifting bags of soil amendments, etc., even for the well conditioned athlete, can if not done correctly, cause back pain and injury.



Tips for shoveling:

Have the right tools

Digging with a proper shovel can make a big difference. Make sure you use a shovel that is light and has a long handle so you can shovel in a more upright position. Remember, not only are you lifting the dirt, but you have the weight of the shovel and yes, even your arms that contribute to the resulting force on your spine.

Know your spine

You have 3 curves in your spine. When shoveling try to maintain those curves, in other words, keep your back as straight as you can. Bending at the waist while lifting a shovel full of soil puts undue pressure on your low back. A trick to help you is when lifting, keep your head up. You don’t have to look at the sky, just keep your head in a neutral or straight forward posture. This will help keep your back straight and make you use your bigger and more powerful leg muscles more. Lastly, never twist when shoveling. Always aim your “drop” zone at either the 10 or 2 o’clock position. Never shovel to your side (9 or 3 o’clock position) or behind you.

Working around the yard can be invigorating and even good for your muscles if you do it correctly. In fact, when done correctly can be a good physical activity.

After You’re Done…

A thorough stretch can’t be understated in terms of benefits! You’ve worked your body hard, it likes a moment to regroup! Take a moment to survey the effects you’ve just created, take some deep breaths and stretch those muscles to help avoid soreness the next day.

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Wrist Pain? Some solutions are at hand!

Posted July 23, 2010 by backsafe®

Categories: Backsafe, Carpal Tunnel, Injury prevention, Saftey Training, Sprain/Strain Injuries, Stretching 

Tags: buffing, custodian, housekeeping, injuries, janitor, wrist pain

Custodial/janitorial personnel experience a lot of material handling and repetitive activities daily. Recently we encountered a hospital janitor who was about to file an injury claim because of a painful wrist. He attended our Backsafe® workshop and reported that within just days of injury prevention training, he could again experience the joy of picking up his young daughter, pain-free.

His particular malady was caused by improper wrist position while buffing the hospital’s floors. He was exerting force and sustaining bad wrist position for long durations while operating his buffer machine. Add vibration to the mix and it caused enough pain and inflammation to ruin his peace of mind and life style. 

A key datum to know is: whenever possible, keep your wrist straight. This particular person worked with his wrists in extension (hands bent up higher that his wrists). 

The muscles that move your fingers are in your forearms and when your wrists are in extension, this contracts the muscle on the topside of your forearms. When chronically in this posture, fatigue, discomfort, pain and eventually injury can surely occur. 

So, while you’re at work buffing floors; breaking up concrete with a jack hammer; using other power tools; or typing on a keyboard, keep your wrists straight. 

At home, the same rule applies.  

The importance of stretching cannot be overstated as well. A brief and simple stretch can bring some relief. Gently flex your wrists up and down—extra stretch can be attained by using the opposite hand to slowly pull fingers back towards forearm; and conversely, pull fingers towards the underside of your forearm. If you experience any pain while doing this, stop immediately and seek a doctor’s advice.  

You can be in charge of your own well-being. It is not your doctor’s job—it is yours. Your doctor helps you if you become injured or sick. You can be in charge of preventing injuries!

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Roof Top Exposure

Posted July 16, 2010 by backsafe®

Categories: Back Injury, Backsafe, Injury prevention, Risk Management, Safe lifting, Sprain/Strain Injuries, Stretching, Workers' Comp 

Tags: Fear of heights, injuries, Roofing, Safe lifting

Looking out the office window I spied a team of roofers stripping a damaged roof, repairing it and re-shingling. The sight of 12 men on a steep roof, with very few safety precautions in place gave me heart palpitations—a slight fear of heights revisited perhaps?!

Setting aside the slips/falls risk, I observed several shockingly egregious biomechanical no-nos. Here you can see the torqueing whilst lifting heavy, bulky packages of roofing materials; bending at the waist, as opposed to lifting correctly…can you spot some additional safety offenses? 

It made me think about the diversity of job tasks and the epidemic of ignorance of proper biomechanics, and by ignorance I mean that people just don’t know!

Each of these roofers is important to someone—as a father, husband, friend, son, brother, co-worker. When (and it is a near certainty that an injury will occur with the every day strain he places upon himself with poor biomechanics) he becomes injured, each of these people will be adversely affected. Not to mention the poor injured soul who thinks that the injury occurred because of an isolated action. He won’t know that it was repeated at-risk motions that gradually wore his body down until it gave in to the damage. He won’t know that the injury could have been prevented. And, most unfortunate, he’ll likely return to the same job with the same bad habits and become re-injured. Thus, the tragic cycle of injury-work comp—re-injury and thus the business owner’s workers’ comp premium skyrockets. 

So, now I’ll step down from my soapbox and talk about solutions…

Stretch muscles before, during and after repeated and/or strenuous activities. These stretches don’t take much time, they are simple and most importantly, they are effective!

Always Face the Load When Lifting. This mantra reflects the spine’s desire to NOT twist!

Keep the Load Close to Your Body. Reaching out from your body puts incrementally more and more pressure on your spine—again, it does NOT like this!

Keep Your Head Level While Lifting. This helps to keep the naturally occurring curves in your spine in the correct position.

Wear some type of safety harness while working on high, unprotected surfaces, like a ROOF!

So, these are the tips that I share with you from these photos. Have you got some good ones to add to my list? Let’s hear ‘em!

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Summer Time and Correct Lifting

Posted July 6, 2010 by backsafe®

Categories: Back Injury, Backsafe, Injury prevention, Safe lifting 

Tags: back pain, lumbar curve, summer

It is summertime, a time when outdoor activity increases significantly. It is the season for barbeques, beaches, yard work, golf and perhaps just settling in a lawn chaise to read a good book.

None of these activities are pleasurable when you have a painful back! Do you know that most back injuries are caused by physical stress that innocently accumulates over time? That’s right! Chances are you were never taught how to do typical daily activities like getting in and out of a car; lifting a cooler into and out of a trunk; lifting kids or laundry; or how to shovel dirt in your garden. 80% of us will have a back incident in our lives due to improper usage of our bodies! The good news is this means that life altering back pain is preventable! 

The first thing to know is that you can have control over whether or not you will ever have a back injury by simply learning more about what our backs like and don’t like. Preventing the little daily innocent stresses that add up to eventually cause you pain is key.  

Here is a suggestion that you can work on. Do NOT “hinge” at the waist when lifting. Your lower back does not like when you bend over to lift something. It can cause significant and continuous pressure on your lumbar spine and disks. Your “lumbar curve” should be maintained as much as possible when lifting, thus the adage: “use your legs” when lifting. By planning ahead you can frequently avoid lifting from the ground. Before loading the cooler, place the empty cooler on a table or raised surface–anything that will help you to avoid bending. When re-potting plants, don’t do it on the ground, have a table or bench or something that helps you to maintain an upright position.  

Do this simple exercise to help you break the habit of bending over when lifting. In order for you to recognize the perilous behavior, stand up and bend slightly at the waist. Remember, this is an at-risk motion so bend minimally so that you can experience the feeling of what you should NOT be doing! Good! Now that you know how this feels, you will be more aware when you lift incorrectly so that you can catch yourself and do it more safely. 

Next, place your feet shoulder width apart for good balance and elevate up and down without bending at the waist. This is the optimum lifting stance. My guess is that you just realized that you bend at the waist a lot! This is a main reason why countless lives are ruined by back injuries. 

Use your legs to raise and lower your body, not your back. Each time you do this you will be strengthening and toning your leg muscles versus weakening and hurting your back. 

Thinking ahead a little and using correct lifting techniques can become a life long habit. If you need more information or help, we’d be happy to assist! Good luck!

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