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Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention: Protect Yourself from on-the-job Injuries (Part III)

How to Protect your Musculoskeletal System

Stop smoking: Smoking narrows vasculature, contributes to clogged arteries and causes such respiratory diseases as emphysema. It's a major cause of coronary artery disease and increased blood pressure, and contributes to the tendency of blood to clot, which results in a greater risk of heart attack and stroke. It increases the LDL ("lousy" cholesterol) and decreases the HDL ("healthy" cholesterol). It targets the musculoskeletal system by decreasing exercise tolerance due to the reduced amount of oxygen available to muscle tissue.

Stretch frequently throughout the day: Keep muscles, tendons and ligaments flexible with routine stretching and strengthening movements. Stretching at least every 20 minutes between calls keeps your body warmed up and ready to move at a moment's notice. Give special attention to toning the musculature of the abdomen, quadriceps, shoulders and hamstrings while also keeping them limber and flexible. Yoga and Tai Chi practices are well documented in the literature to improve muscle strength, flexibility and balance.

Know your blood pressure: If it's high, you may not be aware of it because you may not have symptoms until a considerable amount of damage has already been done. If it is high, discuss it with your health-care provider and get your blood pressure under control.

Keep your cholesterol low and maintain a good ratio between HDL and LDL: Research from Johns Hopkins University reviewing the records of 1,300 people over 50 years of age shows that health risk factors associated with chronic low back pain are smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. People with these conditions were nearly twice as likely to have back pain. The suspicion is that these conditions may slow the blood flow to the lumbar spine, causing pain.

Manage your weight: Maintain a healthy weight for your body's frame. Sedentary lifestyles and aging cause the body to lose muscle tone. Added weight and gravity—coupled with little muscle resistance—cause the body to fall out of alignment. This lack of alignment causes undue stress on discs, bones, ligaments and tendons, resulting in microtears in fibers with resultant pain.

Live a balanced life: Life is filled with deadlines, noise, interruptions and thousands of stressors that put us out of balance. Take time to sort out priorities and balance every day with healthy outlets that give you a chance to catch your breath and enjoy life.

Stay hydrated: Drink at least six to eight glasses of water a day (the stuff without caffeine or sugar). Water flushes toxins and waste products from the body.

Sleep: Adequate sleep protects the immune system, repairs cells and makes us feel better. During sleep our bodies have the chance to repair and build new tissue.

Maintain good posture: Good posture when sitting or standing keeps the body in proper alignment. It reduces strain on individual muscle groups and helps keep muscles toned. When standing, imagine a plumb line that drops from the ear to the shoulder to the hips, then to the floor. When sitting, the plumb line will continue from the hip to the floor. Keep your feet flat on the floor.

Prevent osteoporosis: Risks for osteoporosis include smoking, excessive alcohol use, low calcium intake and inadequate exercise. Although men have a lower risk for osteoporosis than do women, they are still at risk, with white men at the greatest risk of all ethnic groups. Other risks include prolonged exposure to certain medications, such as steroids, anticonvulsants and certain cancer treatments.

Prevention includes performing weight-bearing exercises and eating a balanced diet containing 1000– 1200 mg of calcium (contained in green leafy vegetables and dairy products) and 400–800 IU of Vitamin D (from fortified dairy products, egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, and sun exposure). If you take calcium supplements, take one that includes magnesium and take it in divided doses (600 mg in the morning and 600 mg in the evening).

Jump back to Part 2

Read more in Part 4


Source: Barbara Dailey,