Back Injuries and the Construction Worker

In 2016, there were just over 203,000 injuries suffered by construction workers according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That represents three injuries per 100 workers in construction. Over 66,000 of these injuries resulted in days away from work. Of those injuries, just over 10,000 were back injuries.

Construction work requires heavy and extended periods of physical exertion that cover the entire range of motions including pushing, pulling, twisting, turning, lifting, and lowering. Just about any motion when coupled with serious physical exertion can lead to serious injuries to nearly any body part, but back injuries can be the most debilitating.

Back injuries in construction most often occur when someone improperly lifts or lowers a heavy object, slips and falls, is hit by something, or constantly repeats a motion. The lumbar region, which is also commonly referred to as the lower back, includes five vertebrae known as L1 through L5. These are the strongest and largest vertebrae in the spine. The lumbar region also includes muscles that assist individuals with rotation, flexibility, and strength. This region bears the most body weight of any area of the back, which is why it is the most commonly injured area of the back.

The thoracic region and coccygeal region – also known as the chest and the tailbone – are common points of back injuries as well. A construction worker could injure their chest by pushing or pulling something heavy or by being struck by equipment or materials. The tailbone area could easily sustain an injury in a slip and fall. Both types of injuries can cause loss of mobility and result in serious pain that can take a worker away from their job for days.

Construction workers with the highest instances of back injuries in 2016 were carpenters, pipe layers, general laborers, and electricians. Each of these professions requires workers to use their backs for lifting, bending, pulling, and pushing – and these motions often involve heavy items. Workers in these areas need to be especially mindful of back injuries and see that their injuries are properly treated to avoid long-term complications.

Any construction worker who suffers a back injury should immediately seek medical treatment. A spine doctor can evaluate their condition and help create a treatment plan to minimize the long-term impact.