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When Backs Attack
Janine
Posted: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 3:28 PM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 392


Lifting, bending, pushing and pulling…they’re all part of the job for most yacht crew. 

Unfortunately, such repetitive movements often translate to back injury — one of the most incapacitating and common work-related injuries.

It’s no wonder that back injuries are common among people who perform repetitive lifting and bending, especially considering the fulcrum effect.

The lower back basically functions as the center of a seesaw, with the upper body and the load being lifted as one side. The lumbar muscles and ligaments applying traction on the back are the other side of said seesaw. The lower back’s musculoskeletal frame actually withstands nearly tenfold the actual weight of the object being lifted. As a result, disc injury and degeneration are common precipitants of back pain, along with bone spurs and the tearing of ligaments and muscles.

Any process involving the anatomical components of the back — bones, discs, ligaments or muscles — may result in pressure on the nerve roots exiting the spinal cord and can create severe back pain.

The most common mechanisms of back injury frequently can be encountered on a yacht: heavy lifting, twisting while lifting or holding a heavy load, reaching and lifting, lifting or carrying objects of odd shape, working in awkward positions, sitting or standing for prolonged periods in one position, slipping on a wet floor and, occasionally, poor sleeping positions.

Preventing back injuries — proper techniques
Adaptation and improvisation of instinctive movements are the keys to minimizing and preventing back injuries.

When lifting a heavy object, a crewmember should:

·      warm up with stretching exercises;

·      keep feet shoulder-width apart and bend at the knees;

·      squat down and hug the object to be lifted, keeping the spine straight when standing up;

·      change directions by turning the entire body in the desired direction.

Furthermore, when lifting guest’s luggage, use only the arms while keeping the back straight.  As the bag reaches the waist level, use one hand to hold the bottom and then use both arms to lift the bag.

When putting an object down, squat with a straight spine until reaching the floor with the load.

Everyday prevention measures

All crewmembers can take steps to prevent back problems and to improve posture. When sitting, adopt an upright position without slouching and develop a habit of holding in the belly. A protruding belly places undue load on the spine.

Core muscles strengthening, along with improved cardiovascular endurance, regular stretching and a good diet, also will help to minimize back injuries and allow for a healthier lifestyle.

 

Information provided by MedAire.  For more information on health and safety tips for crewmembers, visit www.medaire.com/yachts. MedAire provides medical response training, medical kits and equipment and remote medical advisory services for yachts around the world.