Farming takes a toll on your body, and now that harvest season is here, the odds of injury increase. It’s important to take steps that decrease the chances of spinal injury.
The Stats on Farming Related Spinal Injuries
National Agricultural Statistical Reporting Districts for Crop and Livestock conducted a three-year study that tracked 500 Colorado farms and recorded data about back injuries that took place during the time period. Researchers interviewed the 759 adults who owned or worked on the participating farms in order to gain insight into the amount of daily back pain they experienced. 458 participants reported experiencing some type of back pain that lasted for anywhere from one week to 12 or more months, and 13% were able to trace the injury back to a specific slip and fall injury. Most of the other suspected the pain was the result of a farming related injury, such as twisting or repetitive motion, though some were unable to pinpoint the exact time the pain started.
The Potential Long Term Impact of Back Injuries
Back pain is quite serious, and it's something to consider as you're making plans for a safe harvest. Short term results of a back injury can result in crankiness, inability to work for several days, and additional injuries developing as a result of trying to work while in pain. As serious as those issues are, the long term potential effects are even more grim. They include:
- A worsening of symptoms
- Development of arthritis
- Inability to continue farming
Manage Your Back
It is important to know your body’s limitations, and it is important to be aware of your body position at all times. Learn to recognize those situations where your back is most at risk: bending, lifting, reaching, and twisting.
The following should help minimize the risk of back injury during cotton harvest:
- Stretch before lifting. Gentle stretching prior to lifting will get your muscles warmed up and ready to go.
- Slow it down. If you will be doing a lot of moderately heavy, repetitive lifting, take it as slowly as is practicable. Allow your muscles some rest and recovery time between lifts. Don’t overdo it.
- Rest your back. Take frequent breaks and again, do some gentle stretching.
- Avoid awkward posture and positions. These put stress and strain on muscles and put you at risk for injury.
Avoid sitting for too long at a time to protect your spine.
Protect your Back
The best way to prevent long term problems connected to back injuries is to do everything possible to prevent injuries from even happening.
First, make sure you prevent back injuries commonly connected to lifting and repetitive motion by always using property lifting techniques. By using caution every time you lift something heavy, hang a gate, or jump down from a stripper, you are more likely to protect your back from strain or injury.
Basic safe lifting procedures include:
- Making sure the load isn’t heavier than you can safely handle
- Wearing a back brace when lifting or pushing something heavy
- Making sure the load is stable before it’s moved
- Standing close to the item you’re moving. Your feet should be braced a shoulder width apart with one slightly ahead of the other.
- Squat from your knees rather than bending.
- Have a firm grip before lifting and use your knees and abdominal muscles while you lift.
- Don’t be in a hurry while lifting and moving heavy items.
Improper lifting practices only account for a small portion of the back injuries sustained by farmers. Slip and fall injuries can also be a problem, especially when getting in and out of combines and tractors. Ways that you can prevent these types of slip and fall back injuries include:
- Minimizing the number of times you get on and off the equipment
- Making sure handles and grab bars are in place
- Making sure the footing is secure
Protect your back to ensure a safe, successful harvest.
If you do injure your back during the harvest season, don’t ignore the issue. Seek medical attention immediately. Safety is a full-time job - don't make it a part-time practice.
To help you avoid an injury durving harvest this year, we've put together a guide to protecting your back. Click the image below to download yours!