Back Injuries in Food Service Workers: Prevention & Treatment

Common Back Injuries Among Food Servers in Los Angeles, CA

It’s not only athletes who tend to “push through” the pain. Chefs, cooks, bartenders, wait staff, and other individuals who work in the food service industry often have a similar approach to managing discomfort. Foot pain is understandably a common issue in the restaurant business, but spine-related problems are just as likely, and ignoring back pain could lead to severe and long-lasting consequences, possibly even as serious as spinal fusion surgery. Los Angeles food service workers need to know all they can about preventing back injuries.

What Are Potential Sources of Back Injuries for Food Service Workers?

Before discussing back injury prevention, let’s take a closer look at the possible sources of back discomfort for people in the restaurant industry. Often, back injuries are related to the various movements and actions that are part of a typical shift. Not surprisingly, the types of spine-related injuries restaurant/food service workers often experience share common sources, some of which include:

• Lifting or carrying supplies or trays
• Having poor posture while standing and performing various tasks (e.g., hunching over a kitchen counter, stove, or bar)
• Working long shifts without sufficient breaks
• Stretching, twisting, reaching, or bending repeatedly
• Slipping, tripping, or falling on wet floors or over items

How Can These Injuries Be Prevented?

It’s not always possible to avoid certain movements while working in a restaurant, café, diner, kitchen, mobile food truck, or bar, but you can take some steps to minimize the risk of injuring your spine or the different parts that support it. For example, if you have to lift bags or boxes of supplies on a regular basis, get help from a coworker with the heavier stuff, and be mindful of your lifting technique by bending your knees and keeping your back straight.

Also, watch your posture during your shift, especially when you have to lean forward, bend, or reach. Be proactive about cleaning up spills to prevent falls that could injure your spine. You may also benefit from:

• Wearing lumbar support belts to help you maintain your posture and take pressure off your spine
• Drinking plenty of water during your shift to keep your spine and its discs sufficiently hydrated
• Taking a day or two off to rest if back pain starts to become disruptive
• Doing gentle stretches or going for a walk during breaks to loosen spine-supporting muscles and boost circulation
• Wearing comfortable, supportive shoes to avoid misalignments that could affect your lower back

How Are These Injuries Treated?

Most spine-related injuries occur in soft tissues that have been overstressed in some way. If this is the case, applying ice or heat to the affected area may reduce inflammation and speed up the healing process by increasing circulation. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may also provide enough relief to give tissues time to heal. Regular exercise, such as walking, other low-impact activities, or core-strengthening workouts, can also be quite effective, and healthy eating habits can keep your spine’s bones and tissues strong.

If you’ve injured your back and restricting your movement and other self-care efforts aren’t relieving your discomfort, see your doctor. If your pain persists or worsens, consult a Los Angeles spine surgeon to get an accurate diagnosis and discuss your range of treatment options. Get in touch with The Spine Institute today if you’ve experienced a back injury related to work or any other type of activity. We offer a wide variety of procedures, from traditional fusion surgery to spinal fusion alternatives. Call us today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.