4 Common Tradesperson Injuries & How To Prevent Them
It is no surprise that the occupations with the highest incidence rates of serious injury are labourers & tradespersons.
Tradies have high physically demanding jobs and every day 10 tradies are badly injured at work - a total of 3,650 injuries to tradies each year.
Listed below are four common areas where tradies experience pain, causes of injury, and how to prevent it from happening to you.
1. Back Pain
If you’re in a trade involving repetitive lifting, bending, twisting or carrying then the odds are you would have experienced some form of back pain at sometime in your job.
- Back injuries are the most common injury for tradies with nearly a quarter of tradesmen experiencing back pain.
- The repetitive nature of manual labour in trade occupations predisposes the muscles, ligaments, vertebrae, and discs in your back to strains and sprains.
How to prevent back pain?
Pilates is a specialised form of exercise that focusses on core strengthening, overall body conditioning, motor control, coordination, balance, alignment, and breathing.
It is widely used to treat and prevent back pain and is available at any Motion Health practice.
It is best to have Pilates exercises tailored to your body by your physiotherapist but below we’ve shown one Pilates exercises you could try at home.
Pilates ‘Dead Bugs’
Lie on your back with your knees and hands in the air.
Keep your lower back pressing down into the mat and your deep core muscles switched on.
Slowly lower diagonal limb pairs towards the floor. Return to the starting position and then repeat on the opposite side. If you are unsure how to contract your deep core muscles ask your physiotherapist.
2. Neck Pain
Do you spend a lot of time looking up? Any trade involving sustained neck positions, such as painters, electricians, roofers and tilers, commonly experience neck pain.
- Prolonged neck posture can overstretch muscles, and shorten others, altering the biomechanics of the neck. Looking up for extended periods (eg. painting a ceiling) can compress the vertebrae in the neck causing unnecessary pain.
How to prevent neck pain:
If you find yourself in prolonged positions try and take regular breaks to put the neck into the opposing position.
If regular breaks are not possible, try mixing up the different types of jobs you do so that your neck is regularly changing positions.
Regular massage can help to release tight neck muscles from sustained positions, and should be a regular part of any tradesperson’s health plan.
3. Elbow Pain
Elbow pain is commonly experienced by tradespersons in jobs where repetitive lifting, gripping, and drilling is involved, such as carpenters, plumbers and electricians.
- The repetitive nature of manual labour in trade occupations predisposes the tendons that act on your elbows and wrist to overuse.
- It’s true that tendon’s love loading, but too much in a less than optimal way can cause issues.
- Inadequate rest and poor wrist position when using tools can also increase the load on your tendons and joints.
How to prevent elbow pain:
Have a physiotherapist assess the way you are holding your tools as there may be a minor change in position that could make all the difference with your pain.
Try the following wrist exercises with a theraband to help strengthen the muscles and tendons that commonly are a source of elbow pain.
Theraband wrist extension and flexion
Stand on a theraband with your wrists facing upwards, gently lower your fists towards the floor, keeping the bend in your elbows constant. Let your wrists generate the movement and slowly bring the fists back up to their starting position. This will help to strengthen your wrist flexors.
Next, turn the firsts facing downwards, and gently lift your fists forwards, once again letting your wrists generate the movement and keeping the elbows still. This will help to strengthen your wrist extensors.
4. Knee Pain
If you work close to the ground then you’ve probably experienced knee pain.
Any trade involving prolonged kneeling such as tilers, electricians, plumbers and carpenters are the worst affected by this kind of pain.
- Prolonged kneeling can cause unnecessary pressure on the soft tissue structures around your kneecap.
- Our knees are not designed to bear weight like our feet and so using them in this manner can cause pain.
How to prevent knee pain:
Using adequate padding when kneeling is key if you have no choice but to kneel.
Sometimes, knee pain can occur from tight tissues on the outside of your thigh. To prevent this from causing or contributing to your knee pain, try foam rolling to release any tightness.
Lie on your side with the foam roller on your thigh and your forearm supporting you on the ground. Roll up and down on the foam roller, focussing on areas that feel particularly tight.
If you do experience pain, don’t ignore it!
You will often hear tradie's complaining about pain but rarely do they do something about it.
Take advantage of Motion Health’s Free Initial Assessment to find out what physiotherapy can do for you.
Things to consider:
- If you experience pain during any of the proposed exercises, cease the exercise immediately and consult your physiotherapist.
- Before undertaking any exercises for pain it is best to contact your physiotherapist to make sure the exercises are tailored to meet your needs
- Have a physiotherapist check your technique if you are unsure if you are doing the exercises correctly.
Amalia Reed - Physiotherapist, Back In Motion Blackwood
Amalia holds a Bachelor of Health Science (Life Science) and a Masters of Physiotherapy. Her areas of interest include pain science, persistent pain, biomechanics, movement analysis, and rehabilitating sports injuries. She is a physiotherapist for two local soccer teams and has also recently published in the Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology about chronic shoulder pain.