Watch Out for These High-Risk Occupations for Back Pain

Watch out for your back if you work at one of these jobs

Research has shown that 30% of sick leaves in the US are due to musculoskeletal disorders, such as back, neck, and shoulder pain. Incorrect posture, overexertion or repetitive motions at the workplace can often result in muscle and joint injuries. Some occupations pose a higher risk than others in developing these issues. 


Nurses are 1.5 times more likely to develop musculoskeletal pain than average, and the majority of it is back-related, according to a US study.

The manual transferring of patients, such as from their beds to wheelchairs and bathrooms, is one of the biggest causes of lower back pain among nurses. Bending while carrying heavy loads can over time exacerbate the wear and tear of spinal discs in the lower back. The forces exerted on the spine from lifting patients are so great that studies have concluded there is no safe way to do this without special machinery. When adjusting patient positions on their beds, nurses also have to exert high forces to push and pull, which can damage the soft tissues in the lumbar spine in their lower back. Rising obesity rate among patients only makes this worse. 

When mechanical devices are not available to assist in patient transfers, nurses should minimize the twisting of their bodies and keep weights close to their waist. They can also try to pull instead of push when moving objects so that they can engage the stronger bicep and tricep muscles in the arms while reducing back strain. 


Research has shown that 62% of dentists reported at least one complaint of musculoskeletal disorder. Dentists oftentimes sit with their torso twisted in one direction when they access the patient’s mouth. This twisted posture causes the muscles around the lower spine to be worked to different extents, and over time these muscles can become unbalanced in length and strength. As a result, the spine can be pulled out of alignment, causing lower back pain. Since dentists elevate their arms and shoulders for long periods of time, they can also overwork the trapezius muscle which runs from the back of the neck to the shoulders, causing neck pain.

To avoid awkward postures, dentists can adjust the position of the patient, the height of their chairs and the arrangement of their tools so that they can work comfortably without twisting or bending their torsos. 


A Saudi Arabian study saw that 80% of female secondary school teachers suffer from musculoskeletal pain in the lower back, followed by the shoulder, neck and leg. 

School teachers in primary education spend prolonged periods of time bending over shorter tables and chairs for young children, which strains the muscles and ligaments of the lower back. High school teachers constantly raise their arms to write on whiteboards, which can cause pain in the ligaments of the shoulders. Teachers also spend long hours standing, which can strain the back muscles and leg muscles. It can also cause varicose veins, where blood pools in the veins, resulting in swelling and pain in the legs. 

Since bending and standing for long periods is unavoidable in this profession, teachers can conduct stretching exercises for the back to relieve the muscles' stress and hence reduce pain. They can also strengthen their muscles so that their bodies will rely less on the joints and ligaments for stability. For people who suffer from varicose veins, they can try compression stockings to induce blood flow and reduce swelling in the legs. Shoes with strong arch support and roomy space for toes will help reduce foot pain and encourage good posture for better body balance. 


Flight Attendants

Spine disorders are the most common type of musculoskeletal disease for flight attendants and account for 52% of work injuries for Canadian flight attendants. 

The repetitive lifting of cabin bags into overhead compartments is extremely tough on their backs, neck and shoulders, because holding a weight over their heads can make it difficult for them to keep their upper body straight and stand firmly. As a result, slipped discs and torn shoulder muscles are some injuries that flight attendants can suffer from. There are also many occasions where these attendants have to bend their backs, such as when speaking to passengers, passing them items or even when food trolleys are low and they have to bend forward to push them along. 

Flight attendants should try not to assist with passenger bags unless they do not have the ability to lift their bags themselves, like in the case of the young, elderly, or disabled. Even in such cases, flight attendants should request the help of other able-bodied passengers to lift the bags together. For those working on long-haul flights above 6 hours, doing simple back stretches when they are off duty can make a big difference.


Being a mother is a full-time job on its own. Over half of pregnant women will experience back pain at some point during their pregnancy, more surprisingly at least 20% of women can still be in pain one year after giving birth.

During pregnancy, the two sides of the abdominal muscles can separate, resulting in a common condition called Diastasis Recti that leaves mothers with an unstable core. Spine and back muscles have to work harder to keep the body upright, and this condition can persist for years after pregnancy. Mothers frequently bend and lift during the postpartum stage, which further strains the back and causes pain. Many mothers also like to carry their children against their hips with one arm, which can strain the back and ligaments in one side of the body, especially as the child gets heavier over time.  

When lifting their children or other objects, mothers should bend at the hips and knees and avoid bending their bodies. Actually, they should just avoid lifting heavy objects in the first 6 weeks after childbirth. 

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