Take steps now to reduce your risk of back pain later.
Is hauling around flight bags causing that lower back pain that’s plagued you for a while now? It’s likely, according to a 2015 study by the Aerospace Medical Association. While it’s estimated that 60%-80% of the population will experience back pain sometime in their lives, the study showed pilots may be more likely than the general population to experience low back pain.
Understanding lower back pain in pilots
The study followed 35 pilots over a six-year span, and evaluated 37 low back injuries as they were treated.
The main cause of these injuries? Flight bags. It was reported that 24 of the injuries (65%) involved the use of traditional flight bags. While much of the pain related to the injury could be treated with medication, the study showed that only 27% of pilots with flight-bag related injuries returned to their jobs soon after being evaluated.
Of the remaining 35% of injuries, many of these were related to slips and falls. Mishaps of this type typically occurred on jet bridges or while traveling to and from local lodging. Additionally, sitting for long periods of time can exacerbate back problems. Repetitive twisting motions and awkward, cramped sitting positions can make pain worse.
Back injury can affect pilots in many ways. Treatment often includes high-dosage medications, rendering the pilot unfit to fly. Ignoring a back injury in its early stages may cause it to become a chronic problem, and affect a pilot’s future flights.
Preventing back pain before it happens
While lower back pain is widely common, here are four steps pilots can take to prevent back pain before it occurs:
- Choose electronic flight bags over traditional flight bags. Traditional flight bags can weigh as much as forty pounds or more. Electronic flight bags are smaller and lighter, and hauling them around takes much less of a physical toll.
- Think ergonomically. Use tools and equipment that do the work for you. Roller bags, for example, remove the strain of hauling around heavy bags by the handle.
- Move more. Movement helps loosen up tight ligaments, muscles and joints. If you don’t have time for scheduled exercise, take every opportunity you can to just walk around and stretch things out.
- Seek treatment early. It’s tempting to try to work through the pain and avoid going to the doctor, but you shouldn’t wait to have the injury evaluated. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you’ll be on the road to recovery. Ignoring an injury may just make it worse down the road.
Related CTS Training:
- Cockpit stretches for pilots: Keeping fit and comfortable during flight
- Flying With EFBs: Taking It All With You
- IMSAFE: Are you fit to fly today?