The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

May 29, 2014

Common questions about occupational medicine

Time away from work can be a wonderful thing, as long as it’s planned. Missed days of work because of injury are not in the same category as vacation or paid time off. Unfortunately, work-related injuries are the reason behind more than 1.1 million missed work days, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s why occupational medicine providers are around — to help prevent work-related injuries and rehabilitate those who do suffer injuries. Let’s look at what occupational medicine really is and some common questions occupational medicine providers face.

Q. What is occupational medicine?

A. Occupational medicine provides a full spectrum of services aimed at keeping employees of regional companies healthy and safe at work. Occupational medicine providers offer physical examinations, health recommendations and other wellness programs to prevent illness and injury at work. Additionally, we help people who have been injured on the job to get back to work.

Q. I hurt my back at work. Should I take time off to rest?

A. The first step would be to see a physician to determine what is causing the pain. We see a lot of back injuries in occupational medicine as these are common in many workplaces. If there is not concern for a fracture or herniated disc, the best treatment is anti-inflammatory medication, stretching and modified work activities to keep as active as able. Bed rest has been shown to prolong healing time for back injuries. So, keep moving as much as possible.

Q. How do I prevent back pain and injuries at work?

A. Here are some basic tactics you can employ to keep your back healthy at work:

* Maintain a healthy weight

* Strive for 30 minutes of exercise each day

* Use good posture — keep weight balanced on your feet, avoid slouching, and use a pillow or rolled towel on your chair, if needed, to support your back

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