When a spine-related injury occurs at work, most people have a desire to get back on the job, even if it’s just to avoid too many missed paychecks. While it’s understandable to want to minimize missed work days, pushing yourself to return to your normal routine too soon could do more harm than good. If your goal is to return to work after a back injury as soon as possible, here are some tips to keep in mind to do so in a way that’s safe.
Whether you have a fracture, dislocation, torn or ruptured disc, or sprain, one of the most common reasons for reinjury is not following advice from doctors. For instance, if your Santa Monica spine surgeon advises you not to lift anything heavier than ten pounds, don’t automatically assume you can if your symptoms start to ease. It can also be helpful to:
• Get clarification on what “light duty” means
• Be descriptive about your normal work activities so appropriate recommendations can be made
• Ask questions if there’s any confusion about what your limitations are
Posture plays an important role in all types of occupations, including those involving sitting at a desk and standing on your feet most of the day. As you get back to work after an injury, pay attention to your posture so you don’t overstress your healing spine or its supporting muscle groups. Since poor posture habits may have contributed to your back injury in the first place, use your return to work post-injury as an excuse to:
• Practice proper lifting techniques (e.g., bend at the knees and keep your back straight)
• Keep your head and shoulders aligned when seated
• Avoid slouching, and shift positions if standing for long periods to perform certain tasks.
Let your supervisors, managers, or HR department know about the restrictions your doctor has placed on your work-related activities so everybody is on the same page about what you can and can’t safely do. Also, let management know if you experience any new discomfort that’s making it difficult to do your assigned work. It’s likely your employer would prefer to send you home so you can see your doctor rather than have you make the problem worse or remain out for longer because of a reinjury.
Lastly, make an effort to stretch and move as much possible while on the clock when you get back to work. Doing so relieves stress on spine-supporting muscles. Stretching also promotes better circulation, which helps with the body’s natural healing process. Further de-stress and stimulate your healing spine by:
• Avoiding long periods of sitting
• Getting light exercise during your lunch break or after work (e.g., low-impact activities such as walking)
• Doing simple stretches while still on the job to ease muscle tension (e.g., gentle side-to-side turns, or head tilts or turns and shoulder rolls if your cervical/upper spine is affected)
Again, follow your doctor’s advice as you recover, especially if you’ve had a procedure such as kyphoplasty surgery. Santa Monica patients should keep their doctors informed about their progress with healing and any recommended physical therapy, since everybody responds differently to treatments and therapies. Your doctor can also use this information to appropriately adjust work restrictions as you recover from your back injury.
When you’re returning to work after injuring your back, following these suggestions can enable you to make a safe, comfortable recovery and prevent reinjury. If you’ve injured your back at work or you’re experiencing back pain for any reason, reach out to the spinal health experts at The Spine Institute. We are renowned pioneers in our field, and we lead the industry in our use of cutting-edge technology and innovative treatment methods. Call one of our friendly team members today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.