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Watch Your Back (Literally) If You Work One of These Jobs

Jan 03,2023 | Marketing Sunnystep

 

Back pain. Surely the term itself triggers some form of reaction, because it’s a discomfort that most of us experience. Research showed that 30% of sick leaves in the US are due to musculoskeletal disorders, such as back, neck and shoulder pain. Incorrect posture, overexertion or repetitive motions in your occupation can often result in muscle and joint injuries. Some occupations pose a higher risk than others in developing these issues. So which jobs are more prone to experiencing back pain? And what are the ways to mitigate them? 

Nurses

It's no surprise that caregivers would experience back pain. According to a study conducted in the US alone, nurses are 1.5 times more likely to develop musculoskeletal pain than average, and the majority of it is back-related. 

Tasks that include the manual transferring of patients, such as from their beds to wheelchairs, is one of the biggest causes of lower back pain among nurses. Bending while carrying heavy loads can over time exacerbate the wear and tear of spinal discs in the lower back. The forces exerted on the  spine from lifting patients are so great that studies have concluded there is no safe way to do this without special machinery. Even the action of adjusting the patients on the bed requires the exertion of high forces of push and pull, further damaging the soft tissues in the lumbar spine in their lower back. 

Working an average of 34-40 hours a week doing laborious, physical tasks, it’s not odd to deduce that nurses also have to constantly be on their feet. This means that it is especially important for people with this occupation to wear comfortable shoes for work. Although there is no specific type of nursing shoes, understanding the amount of strenuous activity that they have to do, it is pertinent to wear comfortable shoes that reduce the possibilities of bunions or blisters. Furthermore, it would be highly recommended for them to wear nursing shoes with arch support to gain a more even distribution of weight at their feet which could actually support, align and stabilize their back, reducing not only foot pain, but more importantly, back pain. 

Dentists

Surprisingly, although dentists spend most of their time sitting and inspecting teeth, they make it to this list. In accordance with previous research, 62% of dentists reported at least one complaint of musculoskeletal disorder. The reason why they make it to this list is because dentists often sit in an awkward position, with their torso twisted in one direction to have proper access to the patient’s mouth. This twisted posture causes the muscles around the lower spine to become unbalanced in length and strength. As a result, the spine can be pulled out of alignment, causing lower back pain. Since dentists elevate their arms and shoulders for long periods of time, they can also overwork the trapezius muscle which runs from the back of the neck to the shoulders, causing neck pain.

To avoid awkward postures, dentists can adjust the position of the patient, the height of their chairs and the arrangement of their tools so that they can work comfortably without twisting or bending their torsos. 

Teachers

As if the task of an educator isn’t tough enough already, a Saudi Arabian study saw that 80% of secondary school teachers suffer from musculoskeletal pain in the lower back, followed by the shoulder, neck and leg. 

It doesn’t matter which education level you are in charge of, the effects of the musculoskeletal pain is inevitable. Primary school teachers have to spend prolonged periods of time bending over shorter tables and chairs for young children, which strains the muscles and ligaments of the lower back, whereas secondary school teachers constantly raise their arms to write on whiteboards, which can cause pain in the ligaments of the shoulders. Teachers also spend long hours standing, which can cause foot pain, strain the leg muscles like the Achilles tendon and the back muscles. It can also cause varicose veins, where blood pools in the veins, resulting in swelling and pain in the legs. 

Since bending and standing for long periods is unavoidable in this profession, teachers can conduct stretching exercises for the back to relieve the muscles' stress and hence reduce pain. They can also strengthen their muscles so that their bodies will rely less on the joints and ligaments for stability. For people who suffer from varicose veins, they can try compression stockings to induce blood flow and reduce swelling in the legs. Comfortable shoes for work with strong arch support and roomy space for toes will help reduce foot pain and reduce overworking the leg muscles like the achilles tendon or cause swelling in the leg and encourage good posture for better body balance. 

Flight Attendants

Having to constantly travel from one country to another to serve customers 36,000 feet off the ground, it is unsurprising that flight attendants would experience several forms of back pain. According to the information gathered among Canadian flight attendants, spine disorders are one of the most common types of musculoskeletal diseases, accounting for 52% of work injuries

The repetitive lifting of cabin bags into overhead compartments is extremely tough on their back, neck and shoulders, because holding a weight over their heads can make it difficult for them to keep their upper body straight and stand firmly. As a result, slipped discs and torn shoulder muscles are some injuries that flight attendants can suffer from. There are also many occasions where these attendants have to bend their backs, such as when speaking to passengers, passing them items or even when food trolleys are low and they have to bend forward to push them along. Which is why even in the cases of wanting to help the young, elderly, or disabled, flight attendants should still request the help of other able-bodied passengers to lift the bags together or help in passing items along instead of doing it on their own entirely. 

Furthermore, most female flight attendants do not have the privilege to choose comfortable shoes for work since they have to wear heels as a part of their work uniform. This will further put a strain on their spine as heels do not distribute the body weight evenly, and this imbalance and instability can cause foot pain and back pain. This is because the center of gravity is tilted forward, forcing the wearer to arch the back for more balance, causing a strain to the pelvis and lower back. Henceforth, especially for those working on long-haul flights above 6 hours, doing simple back stretches and swapping to comfortable shoes with proper arch support when they are off duty can make a big, relieving difference.

Mothers

Unlike the other jobs stated above, being a mother is a full-time, 24/7 job on its own. Carrying and creating an entire human being in the uterus, it is no surprise that at some point during their pregnancy, over half of pregnant women will experience back pain. With the work becoming even more demanding after the baby pops out, it is foreseeable that at least 20% of women can still experience this pain after one year of giving birth. 

During pregnancy, the two sides of the abdominal muscles can separate, resulting in a common condition called Diastasis Recti that leaves mothers with an unstable core and this condition can persist for years after pregnancy. With an unstable core, the spine and back muscles have to work harder to keep the body upright. This can be restraining and painful as mothers need to frequently bend and lift during the postpartum stage to clean up after themselves, their children or to pick their children up. Many mothers also like to carry their children against their hips with one arm, which can strain the back and ligaments in one side of the body, especially as the child gets heavier over time.

Therefore, it is advised  to avoid lifting heavy objects in the first 6 weeks after childbirth. However, it may not be realistic or feasible, so when they need to lift their children or other objects, if mobility allows it, mothers should bend at the hips and knees to avoid bending their bodies. To accompany this, especially since their stability and balance has already been compromised, it would be great if they could wear comfortable shoes with arch support to provide a better center of gravity and reduce any pain these mothers experience. 

 

Resources: 

Back Pain: A Real Pain In The Classroom For Teachers - https://www.chiropracticdubai.com/chiropractic-info/back-pain-a-real-pain-in-the-classroom-for-teachers/

The dentist's operating posture - ergonomic aspects - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4151237/

Varicose Veins - https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/varicose-veins#:~:text=When%20the%20valves%20become%20weakened,stretch%20from%20the%20increased%20pressure.

Factors that might give rise to musculoskeletal disorders when mothers lift children in the home - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22761155/

How to Minimize Repetitive Stress Injuries From Carrying a Baby - https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/13/well/how-to-minimize-repetitive-stress-injuries-from-carrying-a-baby.html

Trapezius myalgia: Making dentistry a pain in the neck - or head - https://www.dentaleconomics.com/dental-office-design/equipment-and-furniture/article/16387275/trapezius-myalgia-making-dentistry-a-pain-in-the-neck-or-head

How Do I Choose The Right Nursing Shoes - https://online.walsh.edu/news/footwear-facets-comfiest-shoes-nurses-wear#:~:text=Wearing%20suitable%20footwear%20is%20important,standing%20and%20moving%20around%20continually.

How High Do Planes Fly? - https://www.flightdeckfriend.com/ask-a-pilot/how-high-do-planes-fly#:~:text=Most%20commercial%20passenger%20jets%20typically,(8%2C000%20to%2011%2C000%20meters).

 

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