5 Spine Survival Tips for Labor Day

The long Labor Day weekend is the last hurrah for indoor and outdoor summer activities. Many people enjoy the extended weekend away from work worries with gusto and sometimes forget basic back and neck safety. Sadly, doctors report a dramatic increase in both neck and low back injuries over the Labor Day holiday. Instead of having to take a detour to urgent care or the emergency room, take a few minutes to consider these 5 spine safety tips.

Happy Labor DayLabor Day 2019 is the 125th anniversary of Labor Day being celebrated as a national holiday. Photo Source: 123RF.com.

Tip #1: Don't Fall Victim to Weekend Warrior Syndrome

Do you view Labor Day as a golden opportunity to catch up on all those lingering home projects? Cleaning out and organizing the garage, testing that new extension ladder while washing windows, or trimming hedges can cause back pain especially if physical labor is not an everyday activity. Consider these accident and injury prevention tips:

  • Review your current medical situation. Can any of the medications you take cause dizziness, drowsiness or confusion?
  • Commit some time to a pre-task warm-up and stretch. Simple exercise can help improve muscle flexibility and range of motion.
  • Don't rush! Take it easy and take frequent breaks.
  • Minimize bending and twisting. These movements place force on your spine's facet joints and discs and contribute to neck and back pain.

Tip #2: Be "Spine Aware" to Lift and Carry Safely

Many people travel during the Labor Day holiday weekend. That can mean lifting luggage and toting overstuffed bags, odd-shaped items, tent setups, grills and coolers, and other items not regularly handled. A few back-saving tips:

  • Test the weight of the object to be lifted. An easy way to decide if you can lift it without help is to try pushing the object with your foot. However, even lightweight objects that are large, or cumbersome, may best be handled with help.
  • Decide what you will do with the object after lifting it. If moving the object to another location, clear obstacles out of the way. Plan the best way to hold or grip the object to keep it close to your body before lifting.
  • Position your body close to, and directly facing, the object. Place your feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart, to provide a stable base for your body. To turn directions, use your feet to pivot. Do not twist!
  • Depending on the shape of the object, try to hold it at the sides and bottom, and close to your body. If possible, keep your elbows bent while carrying an object.
  • Use the muscles in your legs as the power for lifting not your back muscles! Bend the knees, keep the back straight, and lift smoothly. Repeat the same movements for setting the object down.

Tip #3: Don't Let Safety Take a Dive!

Diving accidents are one of the most common causes of spinal cord injury! Here are simple tips everyone needs to know:

  • How deep is the water? Never dive into water fewer than 9 feet deep. Check the pool's depth-marker.
  • Never "penguin" dive into the water (ie, head first with arms at sides).
  • Remember the buddy system and don't swim alone. Make sure someone is watching.
  • Obey all pool rules.
  • Don't run in pool areas to avoid a slip and fall or causing injury to someone else.
  • Make sure flotation devices are Coast Guard approved. Although some toys are made for pool use, not all can save a life.

Tip #4: Bicycle Safety Tips

Biking is a hugely popular activity for people of all ages everywhere! Unfortunately, the thrill of the ride is sometimes ruined by falling. Bicycle-related accidents are a common cause of head and spine injury. Take bike riding seriously by considering these safety tips:

  • Keep an eye on regular bike maintenance. For example, check brake function and tire condition.
  • Adjust the seat height and pedals to fit your body.
  • Never ride without a helmet and protective gear.
  • Watch out for potholes, shards of glass, trash, and other obstacles that can cause a tumble.
  • Give moving and parked cars a wide berth. A door that suddenly opens can knock you off your bike.
  • When cycling in traffic, be aware of what is around you. Drivers who cannot see you in their mirrors (blind spot) potentially can be dangerous.

Tip #5: Common Sense Rules to the Road

Holiday weekends mean busy roadways, hot tempers, cell phone distractions, hungry children, and unfortunately, drunk drivers. You may not be able to avoid an accident, but there are steps you can take to help keep everyone in your vehicle safe.

  • Keep up regular vehicle maintenance. Check tire pressure and wear often.
  • If necessary, preassign a designated driver. Never combine alcohol and drugs with driving.
  • Buckle up before moving. That means wearing shoulder and lap belts.
  • Properly restrain infants, toddlers and children in approved safety seats. Make sure the safety seat is installed correctly in the backseat.
  • Arrive alive! Don't speed and follow the rules of the road.

Enjoy Labor Day!

Whether you stay at home or travel hundreds of miles to reach your Labor Day destination, safety should never take a back seat. Keep these neck and back pain prevention tips in mind as you enjoy summer's final days.

Dr. Sekhon is Founder and President of ThinkFirst of Northern Nevada; a not-for-profit organization that teaches high school children head and spinal cord injury prevention throughout Northern Nevada.

Updated on: 08/27/19
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