For more than 50 years, we’ve been taught improper lifting techniques, Natalie Conway of Tidewater Physical Therapy told a team of Peace Frogs employees gathered in their Gloucester, Va.-based warehouse last week.
Lift with your legs and not with your back, as many people can recite, is only about half right.
Next to the common cold, back pain is the second most popular reason people visit a doctor, said Conway, a physical therapist and Regional Director for the two Tidewater Physical Therapy clinics Gloucester, adding that 80 percent of Americans will experience some sort of back pain in their lives.
No one knows what causes back pain, Conway said.
But “we do know effective prevention strategies and effective treatment strategies,” she added.
And that’s what brought Conway and her team to Peace Frogs.
“The number one injury for us is back related injuries,” said Catesby Jones, President and Founder of Peace Frogs, who invited the Tidewater Physical Therapy clinical team to teach his staff prevention strategies. “If you can keep people healthy, that’s what you want to do. It keeps people feeling good and on the job, and that’s what everybody wants.”
Peace Frogs, an international t-shirt and casual apparel company, designs, creates, stores and ships t-shirts all over the world from its Gloucester warehouse.
Collectively, the team spends their days sitting at desks, lifting heavy boxes and standing on their feet.
On an automatic t-shirt screening machine, for example, Peace Frogs can screen 300 to 800 shirts per hour, depending on the complexity of the design. On a manual machine, they can create 144 to 200 shirts per day.
That’s a lot of standing, twisting, moving, bending and lifting, Peace Frogs employees said.
The warehouse ships all over the world, from packages that just contain one t-shirt for a gift order to boxes headed to retail stores that weigh upwards of 36 pounds each.
Keeping backs healthy, Conway said, starts with maintaining a healthy weight.
“If you have a healthy weight, you can reduce back pain,” Conway said. “We encourage everyone to do regular exercise. When people ask me what kind I say whatever you will do regularly – cardio, strength, walking, core.”
For workers who spend time sitting at a desk for the majority of their day, like the inventory manager and artist for Peace Frogs, Conway suggested taking time to evaluate your workstation. Be sure you are sitting up straight with feet planted on the floor. Computer screens should be at eye level.
“If you sit for an extended period, be sure to stand up and move at least every couple hours,” Conway said.
If you type for a long time with your elbows bent, stop and extend them.
People who work in environments that require heavy lifting get to spend their days moving, but must be sure they are moving well, Conway said.
On average, Conway told the Peace Frogs team, women could lift about 40 pounds safely. Men can lift roughly 60 pounds.
When you pick something heavy up, the item should be located directly in front of you. Push your hips directly back, keeping weight on your heels. Lift straight up.
If you do injure your back, Conway said she would prescribe one day of rest, followed by early exercises and, depending on the severity of the pain or incident, manual physical therapy and a progressive return to activity. The Tidewater Physical Therapy clinic on Gloucester’s Main Street offers a work performance program to help return injured workers back to the job.
“The number one reason people don’t get better faster is because they are afraid to get back to their normal activities,” Conway said. “We are built to move, we are not built to stay still.”
Interested in having the Tidewater Physical Therapy Occupational Services team to your business to teach your team about injury prevention on the job? Contact Terri Somerset at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Photo: Tadd Bower, a sports and personal trainer with Tidewater Physical Therapy’s Gloucester Performance Center, shows Catesby Jones, President and Founder of Peace Frogs, how to property lift a box in his Gloucester, Va.-based warehouse.