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Living With A Back Injury

Author
Alicia Betz
December 21, 2020

Just as you don’t realize how much you use your pinky finger until you get a papercut on it, you don’t realize that your back is involved in almost every single thing you do until you injure it. Like most people, I’ve experienced the occasional tweak in my back that left me mildly irritated for a week or so. It wasn’t until I was pregnant and experienced severe back spasms, however, that I understood the true impact of a back injury. At the time, I was a teacher—not a particularly physically demanding job—and the pain was so extreme that I couldn’t go to work. Even getting out of bed was a monumental task. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, “Having a job that requires heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling, particularly when it involves twisting or vibrating the spine, can lead to injury and back pain.” This means workers in construction jobs are especially prone to back injuries. Construction workers often suffer sprains, strains, and other injuries from bending over to lift and carry heavy materials. 

back pain construction injury

People who perform manual labor are also prone to overuse injuries from doing the same jobs over years or even decades. When construction workers suffer back injuries related to their job, they have rights and can talk to a lawyer about their options for receiving compensation. Regardless of the cause of your back injuries however, coping strategies and pain management techniques can help you live a quality life even with your injury. 

For many, back injuries are completely debilitating, and chronic issues have the ability to severely affect your quality of life. Back pain is extremely common; the term “back injury” gets almost 2 billion hits on Google. Living with a back injury is a harsh reality for many people. While this situation is never ideal, pain management techniques and coping strategies can improve upon your quality of life, helping you live with a back injury.

Pain Medication and Compresses

Often used for acute pain, medication as well as hot and cold compresses can alleviate pain in the short term. These pain management techniques are often necessary for flare ups and for getting through daily life. For severe injuries and pain that doesn’t improve, however, talk to your healthcare provider about further evaluation and treatment, and consider trying some of the other strategies below.

Exercises and Stretches

When I faced my excruciating back injury, it was tempting to lie in bed all day, but my physical therapist advised that staying immobile would be unwise. In most situations movement is better than being inert. For extreme injuries or those at the beginning of their healing timeline, that might simply mean walking around the house. 

People with a chronic back injury and a physically demanding job like construction or roofing might be tempted to forego exercise, but again this is not wise. Specific exercises and stretches that target the muscles that stabilize your back and core can both decrease pain and prevent future injury. Using these muscles during targeted exercise can train them to fire correctly when they’re put into action in daily life. 

Construction injury back

Exactly which exercises and stretches you do should be left to the discretion of your healthcare provider or physical therapist. As anyone with a back injury already knows, these types of injuries can be finicky, which means an exercise that helps you may be detrimental to your colleague. The correct exercise and stretching routine will strengthen and lengthen targeted muscles related to your injury. 

If you are unable to do traditional exercises, stay active as much as possible; inactivity leads to weak core muscles. As long as activities such as walking, swimming, or biking don’t cause you any pain, they are likely safe, low-impact activities with a back injury. Of course, check in with your healthcare provider before starting any activity. 

An added bonus of physical activity for back injuries: weight loss. Losing weight can reduce the strain on your back; as explained by Harvard Health: “To make matters worse, if the bulk of your weight comes in the form of abdominal fat, rather than muscle, your center of gravity can shift forward — a condition that puts added pressure on your back.”

Coping Strategies

Studies suggest that back pain may have a strong psychological component, with patients often presenting with back injuries—such as a herniated disc—on an MRI with no pain, while other patients present with extreme pain and and objectively less severe injuries. If the psychological connection is true, then this can turn into a vicious circle. Back pain can lead to psychological distress, which may in turn lead to increased back pain. 

Therapies such as mediation, yoga, mindfulness, and cognitive behavioral therapy have all been shown to have positive effects on back pain. A randomized clinical trial in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy gave study participants better results than the typical standard of care for back pain. 

Support groups, either online or in person, can be helpful as well. A back injury can be as mentally taxing as it is physically, and it helps to find people who can validate your experience and make you feel less alone.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist should be an integral part of your care team when you have a back injury. When I had my back injury, my physical therapist performed myofascial release that greatly improved my range of motion and decreased my pain. In addition to performing therapies like this in the office, a physical therapist will likely create a treatment plan based on your injury, giving you clear guidelines on what activities will help you recover. Physical therapy is an often underutilized tool that can make a major difference for your healing.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes aren’t easy, however, they can be extremely effective in decreasing both physical pain and psychological distress related to back injuries. Changing your diet to include more nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables can help you lose weight to take strain off your back. This can also help your body get the nutrients it needs to heal. 

Identify activities that trigger or worsen your pain and modify them. This might include household chores such as mowing the lawn or vacuuming, work duties such as heavy lifting or frequent bending, and enjoyable activities such as jogging or playing with kids. Brainstorm with your family, boss, and healthcare providers to find modifications and alternatives to these activities. 

Avoiding heavy lifting is notably difficult in jobs such as construction, where this is a major part of the job; it may even be the reason for your back injury in the first place. While difficult to avoid, it may be necessary to promote healing and prevent further injury. Work with your boss and coworkers to find alternative tasks, get help lifting heavier objects, and consider investing in products that assist with lifting and back support.

Massage

Many people who suffer from pain due to back injuries find immense relief from massage. Be sure to visit a licensed massage therapist. You may even be able to get a prescription from your healthcare provider for massage therapy.

construction injury

Sleep Position

Most of us know the feeling of waking up with a stiff back all too well. If this happens often and your back injury seems to be exacerbated by sleeping, it might be time to invest in a new mattress and/or pillow. Try adjusting your sleeping position as well. Most people with back injuries find the most relief sleeping on their backs or sides with a pillow under or between their legs. 

Avoid straining your back when you get up in the morning by taking your time and rolling to the side then pushing yourself up. Avoid getting up in a traditional sit-up position, which can put pressure on your cold and tight muscles.

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We are here to help you and loved ones advocate for justice. Feel free to send us any questions you might have, either about an injury or the process for pursuing justice so we can help you exercise your rights.

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