Back and Legs Risk Factors
The back is made up of 33 individual bones called vertebrae, separated by shock - absorbing disks. The spine is held in place by a large number of muscles and ligaments. By acting together, they give the spine the ability to bend and twist. The spine also protects the spinal cord and acts as a distribution center for the nerves that run between the brain and the other parts of the body.
Anatomically, the spine is an unstable structure. We create the illusion of stability by using muscles groups in the trunk to keep the back stable. If these muscle groups are out of condition, we run the risk of injury from one - time exertions that are beyond our capacity or from prolonged use of the muscles at a slightly elevated level.
Typical back disorders include:
Strains and sprains are damage to the tendons and ligaments caused by one - time exertions such as lifting or carrying heavy objects. These can lead to very noticeable back pain, but the pain usually begins to subside within a few days if properly addressed and managed.
Facet joint pain results from irritation of the area where the ribs meet the spinal column. Typically, there is muscle swelling in the affected area and it can become very painful to sit or stand up straight.
Disc erosion occurs from prolonged pressure on the spinal discs, which causes them to become permanently compressed. The space between the vertebrae becomes smaller, which can lead to impingement of the nerve roots leading out from the spine. Sitting puts more pressure on the spinal disks than standing, and sitting with the back unsupported can lead to high levels of disk pressure.
Sciatic nerve impingement, also called sciatica, is common in people who sit for prolonged periods of time. The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back down the back of your leg and down to your feet. Swelling or tension in certain muscles in the buttocks can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing pain down the leg.
Herniated discs occur when the inner portion of the disc protrudes, putting pressure on the nerve roots leading from the spine. Pain or numbness in the legs is a common symptom of herniated discs in the lower back.
Risk Factors for Back Disorders
The risk factors for back disorders are the same categories as for RMIs. That is because many back disorders are RMIs they result from prolonged exposure to micro-trauma, and affect tissues that do not heal quickly. Remember, the more risk factors that are involved and the greater the exposure to each, the higher the likelihood of developing an injury. The primary workplace risk factors for back disorders are:
- Force forceful exertions that do not cause harm with one motion, but which can build up micro-trauma over time. For example, the force generated by sitting for extended periods of time without standing to take a break or altering position is a risk factor for low back pain.
- Frequency too much repetition or too little movement can contribute to micro-trauma. For example, repeated twisting to reach the phone is a risk factor for low back pain, as is prolonged sitting with the back bent forward.
- Posture there are certain postures in which we are more susceptible to injury, especially at the extremes of our range of motion. For example, twisting and bending forward while sitting are risk factors for low back pain.