Working in agricultural, industrial, or construction-related occupations often means using machinery that produces strong vibrations. Work that involves tasks such as plowing, driving in large commercial vehicles or cumbersome transport vehicles for long hours, or using a jackhammer and similar devices can have a direct impact on the spine and the various structures that support it in some way. If you work with machines or devices that generate strong repetitive vibrations on a regular basis, here’s what you can do to reduce your risk of developing serious back issues.
How Do Vibration Injuries Affect Your Spine?
Before getting to prevention tips, let’s take a look at how vibrations can affect your back. Your spine’s spongy discs are kind of like natural shock absorbers in that they distribute added stress evenly to minimize the impact on the spine itself. However, if your spine’s “shock absorbers” are subjected to repeated vibrations, they’ll be more likely to wear down, which is similar to what happens if you regularly drive your vehicle over rough terrain. In severe cases, discs may be damaged enough to require surgical treatment, such as a lumbar disc replacement. Santa Monica residents should always be vigilant about safety when it comes to any pieces of equipment they use at their workplaces.
One study involving the agriculture industry illustrates how machine vibrations can contribute to back issues. Researchers evaluated more than a hundred pieces of heavy machinery and farm equipment. Specifically, researchers looked into how vibration stress traveled from the seat to the body of the user, and 56 percent of the equipment produced vibration stress above levels considered safe by European Union standards. Heavy utility vehicles and tractors were among the vehicles that generated the most vibration stress. According to researchers, the degree of exposure to whole-body vibrations is a reliable way to identify workers who may be at risk for developing spine-related problems.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
Thousands of industrial, agricultural, and construction workers require medical attention every year because of vibration-related back issues, which is why the research team came up with some tips for preventing these problems. For instance, suspension systems should be checked on a regular basis to ensure they’re functioning as intended. Additionally, such systems should be adjusted to accommodate the driver’s weight. Suspension systems and seats should also be replaced if a point is reached where they regularly “bottom out” even with routine maintenance. Researchers also recommend the following precautions for individuals using vibration-generating machines or equipment:
• Be mindful of posture while driving (or riding in) vibrating equipment
• Don’t lean forward or slouch when handling equipment
• Use a padded seat topper to minimize direct exposure to vibrations
• Take breaks from using vibration-generating machines or equipment as much as possible
• Report any instances of increased vibrations so appropriate adjustments or repairs can be made
Taking the steps discussed above can protect your spine as you continue to perform the tasks you need to do on a regular basis. However, if you do develop new or worsening back issues as you work with machines producing vibrations, don’t put off seeing your doctor or a Santa Monica spine surgeon. When diagnosed early, many back issues respond well to treatment.
Reach out to The Spine Institute today if you think your discs may be damaged or you’re experiencing chronic spine pain of any kind. Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of professional surgeons can determine the cause of the pain and the possible course of treatment. We specialize in a wide array of diagnostic, therapeutic, and surgical procedures. Give us a call at 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.