Being a tradie is hard work. The physically demanding job, odd hours and prolonged strain on the body all add up. It’s no surprise that labourers account for the highest percentage of serious musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) claims and also have the highest frequency rate, which was three times higher than the rate of all employees. 
The majority (63%) of serious MSD claims are due to body stressing which occurs when muscles, tendons, ligaments or bones are placed under stress. Most body stressing claims (73%) result from muscles stress when lifting, carrying, putting down or handling objects. 
As the daily routine of tradies and labourers requires a lot of lifting, bending and twisting, they rely heavily on their musculoskeletal health for their livelihood. Ignoring aches, pains and body stress could result in reduced quality of life and early retirement, so it is especially important to be proactive about preventing and addressing health issues.
If you are a tradie or know someone in the industry, check out these tips to keep the spine happy and decrease the likelihood of injuries.
Stretch & Warm-up
It is important to stretch before and after work. Your back may be at risk of sustaining injuries when your body is not warmed up and after prolonged sitting. Take a few minutes to warm up and do some stretches to increase flexibility, circulation and range of motion. This will help you get limber, loosen up muscles and prepare your body for the physical activity ahead.
The Straighten Up (Australia) app exercises are a great way to incorporate stretching into your daily routine. They only take a few minutes and are designed to improve spinal health, stabilise core muscles and enhance health.
Lifting requires energy and muscle effort, and done incorrectly, it can stress muscles, tendons and ligaments, increasing forces on your spine.
Take a moment to assess if there is an easier way to lift heavy objects, for example, by using assistance tools such as a crane, forklift or wheelbarrow. This approach can help you move heavy objects easily while reducing the load on the body. Lifting heavy objects beyond your limit should be avoided.
Before lifting any object, do a quick safety check of the area and remove all hazards out of the way. Using the correct lifting technique may help mitigate some of the associated risk. With your feet in a stable position, bend at the knees and lift using your hips and knees, not your back. Minimise the distance between your body and the item you are lifting. Where possible, break items into smaller quantities before lifting.
Being mindful of your posture, whether you are working or relaxing, is very important. Staying in an awkward position for long periods and having poor posture can put strain on the spine. Be aware of your posture and correct it if you find yourself hunching or slouching.
You can use the Straighten Up app to receive notifications about sitting right, stretching, taking breaks, drinking water and improving your posture. The Straighten Up (Australia) app is available on the App Store and Google Play.
Many tradies assume that because their job is physically demanding, they don’t need to maintain regular physical activity to remain healthy. As tradies are constantly putting strain on the same areas of their body, it is important to work towards a healthy and strong body which is better equipped to withstand the gruelling work.
Doing exercise on top of your hard day’s work may not sound very appealing but it is important for your body to get variety in movement. Simple exercises such as going for a walk, swimming or a gentle bike ride are great ways to introduce variety into your routine.
Don’t Ignore the Pain
You may hear tradies complain about an injury but choosing to ignore it. Unfortunately, this is common practice in the industry and needs to be addressed. Early intervention and treatment is part of the solution in improving the well-being of tradies.
It is not wise to ignore aches and pains; these may become more pronounced over time and cause significant health problems. Seek help from a healthcare professional if something does not feel right. This early intervention will prove beneficial in the long run, giving you a chance to address health concerns early on and resolve problems before they progress.
Most tradies have experienced back pain, neck pain and muscle stress. It may be helpful to consult a CAA chiropractor or other healthcare professional to seek advice. Prevention is better than cure – don’t ignore the pain and take a proactive approach to your health with preventative measures.
‘Keeping the Workforce Moving’ is the theme for the CAA Annual Conference this year.
For more information on maintaining a healthy spine, please visit the website of the Chiropractors’ Association of Australia at www.chiropractors.asn.au
 Safe Work Australia, 2016, Statistics on Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders