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Have a healthy Labor Day

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumSince 1894 Labor Day has been designated as the national holiday that pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. Research supports the notion that healthier employees are happier and more productive. When employers encourage healthy behavior and safety at work, they benefit in many ways. For example, in addition to improving job satisfaction and productivity, healthy employees save money by using less sick time, worker’s compensation benefits and health benefits. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 75 percent of employers” health care costs are related to chronic medical problems such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Deconditioned, overweight employees are more likely to suffer from these preventable conditions and are at greater risk for injury. Employers, please consider using this holiday as an opportunity to start a health promotion program at your workplace…have a health fair, offer healthy snacks, encourage walking, smoking cessation, exercising at lunch, and offer fitness club stipends.

Lower back pain, one of the most costly illnesses to employers, is one example of a problem which can be prevented with a good health and safety program. It is widely accepted in the medical community that the best treatment for lower back pain (LBP) is prevention. Keeping fit, (flexible and strong), practicing good posture, and using proper body mechanics are essential in the prevention of LBP. At our clinic, significant time and effort is spent emphasizing the importance of these concepts to our patients and employees.

The City of Scranton is a perfect example of the merit and value of LBP safety and prevention. I have served as a rehab consultant for the city, working with human resources and they have saved significant dollars in workers compensation dollars with a safety program. During this time, the city has noticed a significant reduction in LBP injuries through an onsite safety program which promotes education, wellness, body mechanics, lifting techniques, postural and stretching exercises and ergonomics.

Prevention of Lower Back Pain

  • Maintain Fitness Level: As little as 10 extra pounds puts great stress on your lower back. It also makes it more difficult to maintain good posture. Eat well, exercise regularly and don’t smoke. Smokers have a much higher incidence of LBP and failure from lower back surgery.
  • Practice Good Posture & Body Mechanics: Good posture is critical for a healthy back. When sitting, standing or walking maintain a slight arch in your lower back, keep shoulders back, and head over your shoulders. In sitting, use a towel roll or small pillow in the small of the back.
Proper Sitting Technique

Proper Sitting Technique

Perform postural exercises throughout the day. Most of the day we sit, stand, and reaching forward and bend our spine. These exercises are designed to stretch your back in the opposite direction of flexion. Please perform slowly, hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 6 times each 6 times per day.

  • Chin Tuck: Tuck your chin back to bring your head over shoulders.
  • Shoulder Blade Pinch: Pinch your shoulder blades together.
  • Standing Extension: While standing, put your hands behind back and  extend lower back 10-20 degrees.

Good Body Mechanics and ergonomics are also important in the prevention of LBP. When lifting, think twice. Think about the weight, shape and size of the object. Think about where the object is going and the surface resistance of the floor. Does it require two people to lift? Can I safely lift that high or bend that low?

When bending to lift an object think about safety:

  • Spread Legs Apart Shoulder Width
  • Bend at the Knees and Limit Forward Bending the Spine
  • Arch Lower Back Slightly
  • Get and Maintain a Firm Grip
  • Contract and Hold Abdominal (stomach) Muscles
  • Lift With Legs (not back)
  • Do Not Pivot or Rotate Spine With Load (use feet and step turn)
  • Lift Slowly and Carefully (don’t hurry)
  • Take Time to Perform Back Extension Stretches After the Lift
  • Remember, Pushing is Better Than Pulling a Heavy Load
Proper Lifting Technique

Proper Lifting Technique

Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body.

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum!”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.com

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.