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K-State Today

June 9, 2011

Tips for preventing physical overexertion

By Lisa Linck

Overexertion is the third leading cause of unintentional injuries in the United States, accounting for about 3.3 million emergency room visits, according to the 2011 edition of "Injury Facts," which is based on 2008 data.

Whether at work or home, you can take steps to prevent overexertion.

• Working in an awkward posture can place too much stress on the wrong part of your body. Place objects as close to you as possible. Keep your body positioned square to your work. Remember, your toes should always point in the same direction as your nose. Using proper posture may seem unnatural at first, but over time your body will appreciate the safer positions.

• Limit the amount of weight you carry, give yourself enough room to work in a neutral position and keep tools in good working condition. Many people overcompensate for tools that are too worn or broken. When this happens, tools should be replaced.

• Repetitive jobs create muscle tension because they don't allow the muscles enough time to recover. Repeating certain movements for long periods of time also can increase your stress level, causing you to become tense. It's important to take frequent, short breaks.

Overexertion can be prevented. Overexertion injuries typically cause inflammation, which leads to pain and discomfort. Report any signs of discomfort before it becomes a full-blown injury. Ergonomics can lessen overexertion injuries. The demands of the job must match the capabilities of the worker. This may require training so you know how to perform a job safely.

Routine exercise and stretching can help prevent overexertion.  Strength training to maintain a strong core also can be beneficial. Use these safe lifting techniques:

• Stretch and warm up before lifting

• Keep your back straight

• Bend your knees

• Never bend or twist your back when lifting

• Never lift with arms extended

• Make sure your footing is solid with your feet shoulder-width apart

• Keep the load being lifted close to your body

• Lift with your legs, not your back

• Limit the amount of weight you carry

• Get help to carry heavy, bulky or large loads

• Keep pathways clear to avoid tripping

Whether at work or at home, you can take steps to prevent overexertion.