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During the first lockdown, Fire & Earth were initially closed – understandably, with all the restrictions put in place. So, in attempt to keep myself busy and working, I spent some time labouring on various building sites. 
 
I knew from the beginning that this would be hard graft and a physical challenge, especially seeing the impact it has had on fellow family members who are in the trade. However, I was quite shocked, especially from a massage therapist perspective, about the enormity of the physical strain that goes through the body during a short period of labouring. 
 
In my short time labouring, I’ve noticed more muscles aching than I have from any other job I’ve done before. This got me thinking. What kind of injuries would someone doing this full time be suffering from? So I thought I’d write an informative piece on the typical, and arguably, worst pains and injuries that builders and labourers can endure. 

BACK PAIN 

Firstly, I have to mention back pain, which one that nearly all of us can relate to. Back pain can involve many areas and muscles throughout the back and there are far too many to go into specifics over here. Generally speaking, back pain occurs when the tissue supporting the spine is damaged. The most common form of back pain, and the one I suffered from myself, is lower back pain. 
 
Lower back pain is often instigated, and made worse, by heavy lifting, and in the trade industry that is a common occurrence to say the least. One minute you could be barrowing cement up a plank, the next you could be lifting up heavy blocks from the floor, and the next you could be digging out a trench. The constant change in types of heavy lifting was something I noticed that caused me the main problems in regard to back pain. It wasn’t so much the fact of lifting something heavy that caused me lower back pain - but rather the fact than whatever tasks I had to do after that was a completely different angle and height and therefore used different back muscles. One thing I can almost guarantee about all of this is you won’t be able to do all the heavy lifting with perfect form, due to how the dynamic of the tasks and how quickly you have to change between them. Even something as simple as wearing a tool belt around your waist all day can cause pain! 
 
Preventing back pain follows a similar pattern to most injury prevention. Practise correct lifting techniques for heavy objects and try not to perform them in improper ways, such as twisting your back instead of fully turning the body the way you want to lift. Another important way of minimising injury and pain is to perform a stretching and strengthening program at least a couple of times a week; yoga and Pilates are excellent for this. You can also use a heat or cold pad to bring effective but short-term relief. 

CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME (CTS) 

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that affects the wrist when the median nerve is compressed due to swelling. This causes a sensation of tingling, numbness and pain in your hands. Other symptoms can include aches or pains in the fingers hand or thumb, a numb hand and a weak thumb, or difficulty in gripping. As a labourer it’s important you address this issue if it’s something you experience, because inability to feel and grip tools could be very dangerous and lead to accidents. 
 
Unfortunately, because of the circumstances and nature of labouring work, vibrating work tools are essential and can’t be avoided, meaning you’re more suspectable to the condition. However, there are a number of things you can do to prevent this issue: 
Try to sleep with your wrists held straight 
Keep your wrists straight whilst using tools 
Avoid repeatedly flexing and extending your wrists 
Avoid repeatedly grasping items forcibly with your wrists in a flexed position 
And above all, try to perform a stretching and strengthening routine for the wrists daily. 
 
If you’re already suffering with the condition then it may be a good idea to wear a wrist splint, particularly at night, to help relieve the pressure on the nerve. It could be up to 4 weeks before any benefit is felt from this, but it is pivotal to avoid further damage. Also, try to avoid or minimise the activities that cause the condition in the first place. 

CARPET LAYER’S/HOUSEMAID’S KNEE 

Known less commonly as prepatellar bursitis, Carpet Layer’s/Housemaid’s Knee is a little more out of the box in regard to typical injuries and pains - but certainly still a very painful condition. This condition is a swelling of the prepatellar bursa, which can be incredibly painful and tender especially to the touch, which is very irritating as a labourer. This can be caused by a trauma to the knee such as a fall or a build-up of pressure over time from repeated trauma such as kneeling down. This is due to the walls of the bursae being very thin. Fortunately, it doesn’t tend to affect the range of motion in most cases, but it does make the knee incredibly painful and tender to the touch. Although it may be slightly uncomfortable on full flexion of the knee. It is caused when the bursa, a small pouch filled with synovial fluid, becomes inflamed and irritated. 
 
The best way to avoid this is by preventing it in the first place. Often people will now wear knee pads in order to stop the constant impact of knee to floor. If you are unlucky enough to be suffering from this condition already then fortunately it’s easily treatable in much the same way as most injuries. Rest, application of ice to take down the swelling, and anti-inflammatory medication is usually enough to solve this issue in most cases. More severe cases may require the area to be drained via needle. 
 
So, there’s just a small insight into some everyday aches and pains suffered as a labourer! 
 
If you suffer from any of these or any other conditions due to work then get in touch with one of our therapists. We will be able to offer you more in-depth knowledge on why you’re struggling and offer you appropriate avenues for relieving any conditions. 
 
Don’t forget that you can order gift vouchers to treat someone in your life to a relaxing massage to ease their aches and pains. To arrange these just get in touch. 
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