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Injuries to the back are among the most common and debilitating of all workplace injuries

From a nurse who must lift and assist patients on a daily basis to a warehouse worker whose routine work duties include loading and unloading goods from trucks; the acts of lifting, twisting, bending, pulling, reaching and even sitting can place tremendous strain on a worker's back and result in serious injury.

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor show that more than one million workers report suffering back injuries at work every year. This staggering number means that 20 percent of all work-related injuries involve injuries to the back and one quarter of all workers' compensation claims are filed by workers who have suffered back injuries.

Nearly every movement a worker makes engages the back muscles, which makes it very difficult to fully rest and allow any strained or torn muscles to heal. Consequently, workers who suffer a back injury are at risk of re-injury and are often left to cope with chronic pain and reduced mobilization. Research shows that chronic pain is not only physically taxing, but also takes a tremendous mental and emotional toll on those affected which can lead to the development or worsening of symptoms including anxiety, depression, irritability, anger, decreased immunity and fatigue.

There are several measures that employers can implement and take to reduce the risks that workers will suffer back injuries. For example, the use of lifting assistance mechanisms like hoists and the implementation of safe-lifting policies have been proven effective in reducing the number of health care workers who suffer debilitating back injuries. Additionally, warehouses and factories can work to reduce the size and weight of objects to be lifted and also adjust the heights of pallets and assembly line conveyer belts to reduce back strain.

Workers who suffer back injuries while performing work-related duties should immediately report the injury to an employer and file a workers' compensation claim. In cases where a worker's claim is denied or benefits are prematurely cut, it's wise to reach out to an attorney.

Source: WebMD, "Chronic Pain Management," Feb. 29, 2016

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