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Back problems and workers' compensation

As many as one million workers report experiencing back pain annually, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Back pain is the second leading cause of people missing work. Around $11 billion is paid out to cover workers' compensation expenses for back pain alone. California workers might be interested to know that the tasks people perform at work are thought to be a significant factor in the development of back problems.

Around 60 percent of injuries to the lower back are believed to be caused by overexertion. Excess stretching of the back muscles could lead to muscle strain or a pulled muscles. Strain is the most common issue. However, OSHA has identified several work-related risk factors for lower back injury. Some of the most dangerous factors include poor posture, falls, repeated back trauma, performing heavy physical work, and improper movements, such as lifting or carrying objects. People who have to lift heavy objects could be at a greater risk for injury. Once injured, muscles and connective tissue are more susceptible to another injury.

There are ways to potentially decrease back injuries sustained while on the job. Training workers to correctly lift and carry objects might be beneficial as could reducing the weight and size of objects needing to be moved. Changing the height objects are at when they need to be picked up or put down might decrease the opportunity for injury. Workers who are stronger and more flexible will be less likely to get hurt, so exercising could help. Offering mechanical aids is another idea.

Even when taking precautions, back injures are never completely avoidable. Workers who have been injured on the job are entitled to workers' compensation benefits, which could included medical expenses, rehabilitation costs and disability pay.

Source: Central states Orthopedics, "Work-Related Injuries -- Lower Back", October 15, 2014

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