Preventing Sprains and Strains

Lifting, pushing, pulling, and overreaching are common causes of strains and sprains. Any job that requires you to sit or stand bent in an awkward position for long periods of time can cause excess stress and strain on muscles. Most strains and sprains affect the back, arms, and shoulders. However, there are some very simple things you can do to prevent or minimize body strains and sprains.

Many strains and sprains occur due to poor materials handling. Workers lift things that weigh too much or they lift incorrectly. Lift correctly by bending your knees, not your back. Carry loads close to your body. Injuries can occur when workers try to pull or lift a heavy or awkward object without help, or lift and object while twisting from the waist. When carrying a load, avoid bending or lifting upward unnecessarily, keep as much of the load as you can at waist level.

Get help with heavy loads. Don’t try to move or lift an object you can’t handle. Instead of lifting a 75 lb. load, break it down into smaller parts. If you can’t break it down, get help from a mechanical device or a co-worker. Make sure moving equipment works properly or it will cause you to strain unnecessarily just trying to get it to work. If the wheels on a cart are not aligned, you could strain your arms, shoulders, or back trying to move it.

Change your working positions frequently. Chronic strain due to an unchanging work position can weaken your back, arms, and shoulders. Adjust working heights to prevent slumping or excessive reaching. A vicious cycle develops when chronic strain continues; muscles become less able to withstand strenuous activity and grow more prone to injury of all kinds. Stretch during the day to increase your flexibility. Take body relaxation breaks by letting your shoulders and neck muscles go limp; swivel your head or arms or flex your hands and fingers.

Take care of your whole body with exercise, proper posture, a sensible diet and adequate rest. If your muscles or ligaments have weakened over time from lack of exercise, or age, you are more apt to get a strain or sprain than if you are physically fit. 

Recommended videos from our library:  On the Road; The Lighter Side of Lifting , Back in Business, B-A-C-K Poster, Mechanics, & Exercise , Back At Work

Contact OMAG Loss Control Services if you have questions or suggestions for other topics related to Municipal Workplace Safety Issues. 1 (800) 234-9461 or email

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