Back injuries are surprisingly common. According to Prevention magazine, adults have a 50 percent chance of suffering a serious back injury at some point during their life.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that back injuries account for 1 in 4 occupational injuries resulting in days lost from work.
Back pain can truly be debilitating, and even what seems like a minor injury can cause severe pain that makes it difficult to participate in normal, everyday activities. Tasks such as bending to pick something up or twisting to reach something behind you can become impossible and excruciating.
Sources of Back Pain
The human spine is comprised of five regions - cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacrum and coccyx.
Most patients who complain of back problems suffer from pain in the neck, upper back or the lower back - or the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions of the spine. Pain may also radiate to the limbs, depending on the type of injury or cause of the pain.
Back Injury Diagnoses
When they're in pain, most people crave a diagnosis so they can begin treatment. But it's not always obvious how a back injury occurred, so patients may have to see many physicians, chiropractors and other medical practitioners before receiving a definitive diagnosis.
However, there are several common diagnoses for back pain, and most are treatable. However, patients some patients may not recover as quickly or as fully as others, depending on such factors as genetics, the severity of the injury, weight, age and fitness level.
Back strain or back sprain - These injuries usually affect the lumbar spine and cause lower-back pain. They are the result of damaged muscles, tendons or ligaments, and pain can last for weeks until inflamed tissues subside. Rest and anti-inflammatory drugs are the most commonly prescribed treatments for these types of back injuries.
Bulging or herniated discs - This diagnosis refers to problems with that the vertebrae—the small bones in the spine—and the soft tissue that cushions them. The tissues in the back may become inflamed, which can compress the surrounding nerves. Pain can be intense and may radiate to the legs. Surgery may be necessary, but some patients recovery through a combination of physical therapy and a round of anti-inflammatory medication.
Spondylosis - Arthritis can affect the spine, and when it does the diagnosis is spondylosis. Patients suffering from this condition may have a stiff back. They also may have a limited range of motion, weakness in their back, numbness or tingling and trouble bending and walking.
Spondylolisthesis - If you've been diagnosed with this condition, then your vertebrae are not in alignment. Commonly referred to as a "slipped disc," this condition has varying levels of severity. Some patients may not notice any pain, while others may experience discomfort in their lower back, thighs and legs.
Understanding OSHA's Role In Keeping Workplaces Safe
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 grants every American employee the right to a safe and healthful workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, as well as similar state agencies, are responsible for enforcing workplace safety rules and taking action to eliminate workplace hazards that could cause injuries or death.
OSHA inspectors routinely visit companies and worksites to check that employers are following safety rules. But as you can imagine, inspectors cannot visit every workplace, and they rely on workers to report unsafe conditions.
Curious about whether your employer has even been inspected by OSHA. You can find out online by inputting a few key details on OSHA's Establishment Search Page. You can also find out about the most common hazards in your industry.
March is Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month, making this the perfect time to talk about what companies and workers can do to prevent on-the-job eye injuries.
Workers often serve as the eyes and ears for OSHA, and the agency encourages them to report hazardous conditions without fear of reprisal from their employer.
What can I do if I think my workplace is unsafe?
If you believe working conditions are unsafe or unhealthful, we recommend that you bring the conditions to your employer's attention, if possible. Your employer may want to contact OSHA or your state consultation service in order to gather information about how to improve working conditions.
You may file a complaint with OSHA concerning a hazardous working condition at any time by phone, fax, email, mail or in person.
Links and instructions for filing an OSHA complaint are available online.