Get your Tradie’s Back back on track

Get your Tradie’s Back back on track

We are reaching the end of August, nominated as Tradies National Health Month. So in the hope of encouraging you to, well, not get injured, we’ve put together some info for tradies and their families.

Aussie tradies are traditionally pretty tough. It’s part of the job. Working with your hands all day, often outside, with heavy lifting and wielding sharp powerful tools. This physical work has a major strain on your body, putting a lot of pressure on your muscles and joints. Even following the safety rules, injuries within tradies are common.

Statistics show that tradies, labourers, drivers and machinery operators make up 30 per cent of Australia’s workforce but contribute 58 per cent of accidents and serious injuries (1).

Your body your tool

It’s not surprising that tradies are overrepresented in workplace injury statistics compared to other workers… Quite simply, tradies rely on their bodies for work—their bodies are their primary work tool. If it breaks down or becomes incapacitated through injury then comes the risk of having to take time off work.

The average time off work due to serious workplace injury is 5-6 weeks (2), which is the time many tradies simply can’t afford.

With tradies heavily relying on their physical capacities to do their job, it is surprising to see how few of them look after their bodies.

Research shows that less than half of surveyed tradies (47 per cent) take good care of their bodies, but 79 per cent of participants report taking good care of their tools! (3).

Let’s try to find out why that is.

It’s probably nothing – until it is something

With heavy body strains, muscle aches and pains are common. Tradies tend to think they just need to “toughen up”, working through injuries and hoping for the best. Over 50 per cent of tradies think aches and pains are the part of the game, typical for the work they do (3).

It doesn’t have to be that way. While it is normal to feel aches and pains, it is definitely not a good practice to ignore it. Discomfort is a sign your body gives you, a message that something is not quite right. Ignoring those signals often means ignoring a chance to deal with a smaller issue that unattended can lead to longer recovery time or chronic injury.

Our advice – don’t wait for your injury to get worse. It doesn’t have to be critical for you to see a health professional. Remember – early intervention can prevent more serious injury.

Better not to know

One of the interesting things we see a lot is tradies who put off seeking medical help because they’re scared of a negative diagnosis (bulging disc, a torn ligament “that’ll be 6 weeks off mate” etc). They might have googled it themselves or been given some generalised information by someone who once had back pain.

Case in point:

33yr old builder with back pain for a few days came in last week. He was told 5 years ago by a health professional that his back pain ‘sounds like’ a disc problem. He was given pain meds and sent on his way. No tests or scans were done but the fear of God was put into him.

Each time he had back pain he took a week off work (costing untold thousands in lost wages ) out of fear that he would end up with long term disability.

He came in for a session, “gets it twice a year, more or less” he said. He was sure that it was his ‘old disc injury’ playing up. We performed all the relevant tests for disc injury, all negative.

When asked what else had been going on with him he said that actually, he has had a bad flu, “coughing for 10 days straight and lying in bed for the whole weekend”. When asked how often this happens he said “twice a year more or less, and that the back pain usually come on after a bout of the flu”.

Eureka, no debilitating structural problem. He was just extremely sick and coughing and lying on the lounge had made his back spasm.

The biggest thing we did for this guy was telling him that he’s not as bad as he thinks he is and that he can go to work tomorrow. His face lit up, he walked out pain-free and he worked for the rest of the week.

The moral of the story is that it’s often not as bad as you think it is.

Come and see one of Tonic’s osteopaths, get an assessment and clarify what is really happening to your body. Find out how to treat it and what to do to prevent any further damage or similar issues in the future.

What can you do?

There is all sort of things you can do on a daily basis to help your body prepare and deal with the strain from physical work.

At a minimum, we recommend exercising 2-3 times a week to the point where you get a light sweat and also warming up and stretching before work each day.

Below are a few stretches that our in house fitness expert and Tonic therapist Sean Killeen (@holistic_fit_by_sean) came up with specifically for tradies based on the injuries we see at our clinic the most. Those can be done at home or on-site.

Stretches help by:

  • improve circulation to muscles, this means new blood to the muscles and old blood and lymph being drained away.
  • looser muscles mean better ‘range of motion’ which are important for joint health and lessening the likelihood of injury
  • plus – they don’t cost anything, you don’t need to go to any special place to do it, it takes 5-10 minutes

    Nothing beats a good stretch…. Well maybe a good massage but that’s where we come in.

    Whether you’re a chippy, sparky, plasterer, plumber, bricky or concreter we’re here to give you the tools and the confidence to look after yourselves as well as you look after your power tools.

    Come and see us at Tonic – book your osteo or massage appointment now.