Injury Prevention Exercises and Tips for Labor Intensive Jobs

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For people who work in labor intensive jobs, following a fitness program can provide many great benefits. In this article I will cover 5 different careers which impact physical health in negative ways through overusing specific muscles. If you currently work in one of these professions, you will become aware of the impact your job can have on your body and then be proactive toward injury prevention. The 5 professions I will cover include:

  • Carpenters
  • Hairdressers
  • Drivers
  • Desk Job Employees
  • Laborers

Injury Prevention for Carpenters
There are several job types which affect the area of the hand and arm that can result in carpal tunnel syndrome along with developing problems with the rotator cuff. Carpentry seems to be a very common profession where these issues arise. The process of hammering repetitively may strengthen and even add muscle to these areas but overuse will eventually result in the breakdown of tendons and other connective tissues which could cause injury. Carpal tunnel syndrome affects the area around the wrist joint and also impacts the thumb, index and middle fingers. When these nerves swell through increased circulation they expand and also cause some space limitations and friction. The area then swells even further. Over time it can develop into an elbow and shoulder issue. As it climbs upward, a person will experience numbness and also feel a sensation of “pins and needles” in the areas affected. This is a good indicator that the circulation is being cut off due to swelling.

Solutions
It would be advantageous to switch hands but realistically, most carpenters who are on a job will be in a time crunch so this is probably not the best option. A better solution is to just plan correctly from the start. Mix up the repetitive movements with different movements to give the specific area a break.  Wearing a wrist wrap for support is another preventative measure which can help.

injury-prevention-exercises-carpenter

Hot and cold therapy will also help decrease the pain and swelling if it’s included as part of your overall regimen. Tolerance to this can vary and it is a painful treatment but works amazingly. Try placing your hand in ice water for 60 seconds and then in hot water for 60 seconds and repeat. Do this for 5 -10 minutes every night. This process should force out lactic acid and help you recover for the next day of work. Unfortunately, many carpenters work very long hours throughout the week and it’s difficult to get some time off to rest and recover.

I also suggest using joint supplements since these can be very helpful. Not every supplement will work for every person so make sure to test them out to see which one works best for you. You can try glucosamine or other joint supplements that have a combination of certain ingredients which will usually have glucosamine in them. MSM, curcumin, chondriontin and minerals seem to be very useful. Arnica can be helpful both orally and topically and is very popular with acrobats, dancers and gymnasts.

Keeping a squeeze ball with you is a great tool for training the area in a rehabilitative way. A squeeze ball is usually a bit larger than a golf ball and is very mushy and soft. The main drill to perform is to hold it in the palm of your hand while pushing your thumb into it. Of course, you would not want to overdo this either so keep this exercise to a maximum of 5 minutes per session with only 2-3 sessions per day to avoid overuse.

It’s also important to keep the area of your hand and arm well-stretched. The extensors and flexors in the forearm should be gently stretched daily to keep the muscles healthy and to help avoid developing a chronic issue. If you are already chronic, I still suggest the above tips in order to alleviate and maintain as best as you can.

Injury Prevention for Hairdressers
Certain jobs where you stand on your feet all day long can cause issues so implementing certain fitness tips will be very beneficial. Most standing jobs, like a bank teller or hairdresser, do not allow you to sit very often. According to “work safe standards”, the employee who stands all day should have a box to rest their foot on to alleviate some tension.

Things get worse when you decide to wear fancy, uncomfortable shoes. By the end of the day, your knees start to hurt then your hips and finally your back. This will slowly creep up your spine and could cause rounding of the shoulders and other postural issues such as scoliosis, lordosis or kyphodosis.

Solutions
Postural exercises are essential for the worker who stands all day long. Stretching the chest, shoulders and hamstrings are also very important. Try doing simple exercises like shoulder blade squeezes which can be very effective. Core exercises need to be performed as well, including simple crunches, knee raises and ankle touches. You don’t need to join a gym and there is no need for extra equipment as you can do these movements at home with your own body weight.

injury-prevention-exercises-hairdresser

Your nutrition plan is also important for getting you through long, marathon days. Make sure to always eat a nutrient dense meal every 2.5 to 3 hours throughout the day. Many employees will skip meals due to time constraints. This is where a quick protein shake or a handful of almonds comes in handy.

Also, try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. It seems that lots of people sleep no more than 5 hours each night which is a huge disadvantage! Proper lifestyle planning is the best way to fit your food preparation, sleep, work and also play into your busy day.

Injury Prevention for Drivers
Bus drivers, cab drivers and truck drivers spend a huge portion of their time in a seated position while using only the lower portion of their legs to press the gas and brake pedals. Bus drivers come in 2 variations which include the city bus driver and the long distance bus driver who takes passengers from city to city.

Investing in some inexpensive exercise bands is your best option for getting in a quick workout. Even if you can only fit in 15 minutes of resistance training per day along with some cardio like walking, you will be ahead of the game. You probably sit more than you did in school since the largest part of your day is driving, so making that extra effort to get some exercise is essential for your health. The great thing about exercise bands is that you can carry them with you and use them at anytime. You can even do some arm training exercises when you’re stopped at a red light (just make sure to put them away before driving).

Postural exercises such as rotator cuff movements along with external and internal rotations are very important. You also want to add in some crunches and back extensions to strengthen your core muscles which are vital when driving all day long.

injury-prevention-exercises-drivers

Injury Prevention for Desk Job Employees
Working behind a desk makes up a huge portion of the career population. Many companies will try to help cater to the health of their employees and offer different choices of ergonomic chairs or desks. I recommend asking your boss for a body ball to sit on. This helps with posture and allows your body to consciously work toward spinal alignment much better than a normal office chair. However, the greatest thing about the body ball is that you can actually use it for short workout sessions during your work breaks. Start off with a chest stretch especially if you are working at a computer most of the day. Ball squats are an excellent exercise and all you need is a wall. Just lean against the ball while it’s securely against a wall and then squat up and down. Crunches can be performed on the ball comfortably and you can even sneak those into your work day while you are between calls or taking a little break. Your hamstrings can also be trained with the body ball. Get into a bridged position on the ground. Position your heels on the ball and then raise your hips and back off the ground and roll the ball toward your butt with your heels, while your hips and back remain in the air. This exercise works your entire core and targets the muscles of your hamstrings, glutes and back.

Injury Prevention for Laborers
This particular job description is very large and can include but is not limited to landscapers, roofers, painters and workers who move large, heavy items all day long. There are several ways to get hurt in this industry so injury prevention is vital. Strains and sprains are just some of the most common issues but many times this career can leave a person with permanent chronic problems.

The good news is that it does not have to be this way. It’s hard to imagine how someone can go workout after a full day of hard labor. If you can make it into the gym just a few times during the week, it will pay huge dividends. Shorter sessions are usually suggested and it’s important to focus on larger muscle groups which will give you the most bang for your buck when you’re short on time. Exercises like bench press, squats, deadlifts, military press and barbell rows are excellent for building size and strength in the major muscles needed to perform intense and laborious work during the day. Keep your workouts to about 45 minutes maximum and shoot for repetition range around 12-15 for each set.

By implementing these fitness tips above, you will be able to target specific muscle groups and important areas of your body which are commonly affected by labor intensive jobs. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so try to implement these suggestions to help you live a healthy and pain-free life!

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About Author

Linda Cusmano

Linda is a national level fitness and figure pro who dabbles in bodybuilding competitions, obstacle and strength challenges along with fitness model competitions. She is a triple certified elite personal trainer and the owner of Body Rush Personal Training. See my profile page for more information!

2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Johnathan Owens on

    I’m a new roofer/metal installer for a company and I am so sore (feet and back). I need to get used to it because I need this job and we work a lot. What can I do to strengthen my ankles, feet, back and to help my balance when I’m walking on steep metal roofs.

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