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A Real Pain In The Back

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NovaCare Inc., a national employer of nearly 17,000 licensed physical-rehabilitation clinicians, recently conducted a study to determine which types of injuries were most frequently sustained in the workplace. Topping the list for both men and women? Back injuries, followed by neck and shoulder injuries.

"The findings," says John H. Foster, chairman and CEO of NovaCare, "are distressing, and point to the need for ever-greater on-the-job injury-prevention efforts. Workplace injuries account for more than $70 billion annually in medical expenses and lost productivity."

As a small-business owner, the first preventative measure to take is as easy as listening to your body.

"If you often leave the office with stress, backaches, headaches or other pains, consider that these kinds of symptoms may be your body's way of saying it can't adapt to the physical aspects of your workplace," say Edith Weiner and Arnold Brown, authors of Office Biology (Weiner, Edrich, Brown Inc., $22, 212-889-7007).

"Is your work surface too high or too low for you?" ask Weiner and Brown. "Must you assume an unnatural or stretched position in order to see or reach controls, to write or type, or to get access to materials or parts of your work unit? Are you required to hold up your arms or hands without the help of armrests? Do you have to lift and carry too much weight?"

Here are some of Weiner and Brown's suggestions for creating a more body-friendly workplace:


  • While at the keyboard, use a wristrest to keep your wrists straight.


  • If you talk on the phone while writing or typing, use a headset; this will reduce the stress to your neck and upper body.


  • Watch your posture. Your seat should slope slightly forward, in order to move some of the pressure off your spine and onto your thighs and feet.


  • Finally, take frequent breaks; sitting in one position for too long isn't good for you.
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This article was originally published in the June 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: A Real Pain In The Back.

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