I remember a time, not so long ago, I got in my car, and it crossed my mind that I hadn’t checked the oil in a while. It was an old car, and it was something I had to do fairly often, but I was in a hurry, and I figured I’d be ok to check it when I had more time. Halfway to my destination, the oil light came on. I was in the middle of nowhere and had no spare oil on me so all I could do was keep going, knowing that I was most likely causing damage to the engine and that it could cause it to cease at any moment. Thankfully on that occasion, I got away with it – a petrol station came into sight, and I was able to pull over and buy some oil, however, my garage mechanic will be able to tell you that I wouldn’t have been the first person whose car engine had died because of simple neglect like this.
Our bodies are the same. They need looking after! Poor posture, small, repetitive movements, constricted movement for long periods of time, a fast pace of work, it all adds up. Then there are the strains and stresses we put it through at home. Even sitting on the sofa for hours has a price to it. The fact is the list of strains we put on our bodies goes on and on!
Statistics taken by the HSE in 2020/21 indicate that of all the work-related ill health at the time, 28% of it was due to muscular-skeletal disorders: back pain (39%), neck, shoulder and wrist/hand pain (45%), lower limbs pain (16%). And all of these could have been caused by a combination of activities.
Despite all this, we’re not so good about adjusting our practices, or seeking help until the pain is too much and we can no longer manage it.
“I can’t be bothered with all of that”, “I am ok, I don’t have any pain”, “I’ve worked like this for years and it’s never caused me any problems”, “I know how I should be sitting, and I don’t need the help”! I think I’ve heard every excuse under the sun.
So why are we so often so reluctant to follow advice and adjust our practices?
I think one of the biggest issues is that people don’t always appreciate how much of an impact a muscular disorder can have on their life. They’re not life-threatening and therefore people can assume that because they’re young, or they’re fit and healthy that they will be ok.
The trouble is that the stress we cause to our bodies is accumulative, which means that the damage builds up slowly and we often don’t realise what damage has been done until it’s too late! What starts off as a niggle can quickly develop into a major injury if ignored, at which point that injury requires medical intervention and painkillers.
For me, it was sudden. One morning I went to get out of bed and found that I couldn’t put my foot down, the pain was so intense. Years of thinking I was ok lifting heavy things, doing DIY (not very well!), playing squash (and not doing any other exercise, if I’m honest) plus a whole bunch of other things, all added up and my back had had enough. It eventually meant the end of a career, which whilst an extreme consequence, is not unheard of in some cases. The trouble is, I’d ignored the niggles and assumed I could keep going as I was, thinking that the pain would pass. It didn’t!
So, what should you do when you start experiencing these niggles. Well, in the first instance, engaging in a review of working practices and home life can be enough for many people but, even if medical intervention is required, a full desk assessment will be invaluable in supporting any treatment and helping you to set yourself up in such a way as to prevent further injury. Your workplace may offer this support inhouse, or you may prefer to contact me to discuss how I can help.