“I have worked on site on and off for most of my life. My back and knees seem to be complaining these days and I just wondered if there is anything I can do to make sure it doesn’t get any worse? I guess I have done the damage by just not thinking when I pick up heavy or awkward loads, but that’s life on a building site!”
Lifting - or manual handling - is a very common cause of back and joint pain. It is therefore very important not to lift more than you can easily handle, or work beyond your normal abilities and limits. Lifting heavy or bulky loads, carrying them awkwardly, pushing, pulling or dragging heavy loads, working when physically tired, stretching, twisting, reaching and prolonged periods in one position can all trigger or exacerbate back and joint problems.
If possible you should use manual handling equipment when this is available and make sure you use it correctly. When lifting heavy or bulky objects, bend your knees, keep your back straight and carry the objects close to your body, you should also make sure you have a stable base to stand on when doing this. Where possible, use two or more people for heavy or awkwardly shaped objects. Request that deliveries are made as close as possible to where you will be using them.
If you do hurt your back remember although you should take it easy, your back is designed for movement so the sooner you start doing your ordinary activities the better. A short course of manipulation can help relieve back pain for some, if done by a qualified professional.
As you improve, gradually increase your level of activity. Move about and take some walks, stretch regularly and build up your activity as you get stronger, but don’t do one thing for too long. Keep switching your activities so that you are changing position and moving around from time to time.
If you are employed, report your back pain to your employer and to your safety representative if there is one in your workplace, about how your normal work could be done in an improved way. Your employer may be able to put you in touch with occupational health support.