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No one wants to suffer an injury while on the job, but it can and does happen—sometimes much more easily than workers may expect. These risks are a large part of why workers compensation systems exist: to help manage the risk and provide for workers hurt while on duty. What are some of the most common injuries individuals face at work?

In many cases, these injuries have to do with the back. Being aware of the risks can help to improve worker vigilance in guarding against injury while making it easier to recognize when something is not right.

Muscle Sprains and Strains

Perhaps the most common of workplace injuries, many workers experience sprains and strains in the muscles of the back each year. Improper lifting form is the most common cause.

Strains can be severe but don’t often result in lasting damage since this type of injury is caused merely by an over-extension or overuse of the affected muscle. Sprains, though, can involve the tearing of ligaments and are often more severe. Sprains can occur when a worker is trying to lift too much quickly or as a result of other workplace trauma.

Slipped/Herniated Discs

In between each of the vertebrae in your spine is a soft pad of cartilage called a disc. Not only does each disc help cushion your spine from impacts but discs are also what you use to bend and straighten your back.

Severe strain over time can cause these discs to “slip,”; protruding from the spine and pressing onto sensitive nerves. While this condition often causes acute pain, slipped discs can also become a chronic concern and in some cases will require surgery to fully correct.

Pinched Nerves

A common side effect of a herniated disc is a “pinched nerve.” A pinched nerve in the back occurs when a nerve becomes compressed by an outside force. This catalyst can be a slipped disc, or it can be the result of bony protrusions from the spine among other conditions.

Sciatica is one common condition that results from pinched nerves, sending pain shooting down into the leg. Radiating pain is often one of the telltale signs of this condition.

Repetitive Strain Injuries

While many people think of RSIs as wrist-related conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, they can occur in the back as well. Consider a loading dock worker in a warehouse, for example, who must consistently bend down, lift, and stack boxes at or above chest height for weeks at a time. The muscles in the back can weaken and become painful as a result of an RSI while increasing the worker’s risk for sprains, strains, and disc issues.

If you suffer a work-related back injury, you may be eligible for workers compensation to offset the cost of treatment and missing work due to pain. If you suspect you’ve hurt your back, speak to a doctor without delay to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. In the meantime, take care to observe good habits that can reduce the risk of workplace back injuries, such as proper lifting procedures and regular rest breaks.

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