Police officers handle a range of physically taxing jobs during the course of duty each day. From wearing a heavy and bulky duty belt to sitting in a cruiser for extended periods of time, police officers have occupational hazards that can lead to chronic lower back pain. This pain can make it impossible to complete the demands of the job effectively, and can sometimes force officers to seek disability or early retirement. There are some ways to limit the damaging effects that the daily demands call for.
Common Causes of Back Pain for Police Officers
Extended sitting: A large part of the job for many cops involves sitting in a cruiser, sometimes for hours at a time. Seats in these cars are not designed with this in mind, leaving the lower back largely unsupported. When officers are sitting for long periods of time, the lower part of the spine is strained, because it is supporting the rest of the spine in an uncomfortable position.
Extended standing: Police officers often have to perform tasks that require endurance. This includes standing or running for stretches of time. When they are patrolling a neighborhood on foot all day, for example, the spine becomes fatigued. When the spine is chronically fatigued and not looked after properly, long-term damage and pain can be the result.
Late night hours: Working long hours can be tiring for the whole body, including the spine. Late night working hours can make officers more inclined to eat unhealthy food, and lose valuable sleep time that replenishes vitamins and minerals in the body. Consistently working long and late hours can ultimately be detrimental to the body.
Duty Belt: Wearing a duty belt every day can put stress on the spine and neck. On average, a typical duty belt weighs about ten pounds, and is worn around the waist all day. This constant weight is one of the leading causes of back pain in police officers, especially when it is not distributed evenly.
For officers still actively serving, there a few ways to limit the damage that those listed above cause. For those who have to sit for extended periods of time in a car, alter the seat with a lower back pillow to provide more support. Also, if possible, get out of the car and walk at least once an hour. This change in pressure on the spine can prevent stress and continual damage, and also allows the back to stretch.
In recent years, with the damaging impact of duty belts becoming more widely known, there have been efforts to alter them to make them more advantageous to the back. Some experts have recommended wearing suspenders under the uniform that help to support the belt, and relieve the weight that the spine is supporting. This is a helpful tip for officers who are experiencing pain, as it is financially feasible and doesn’t require the belt to be worn in a drastically different manner.
For police officers who have been working for a number of years and have back pain that cannot be solved by any of the previous suggestions, Dr. Allonardo will examine your medical history and look at your current symptoms and spinal presentation. After a thorough evaluation, he will provide a diagnosis, and from there determine the best and safest treatment option available. Lower back pain can be caused by a number of conditions including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, sciatica, and degenerative disc disease, among others. Treatments vary for conditions, making it important to go to a trusted and experienced doctor who can determine what is causing the pain.
If you are experiencing back pain, or are concerned about future back pain, schedule an appointment with Dr. Allonardo to learn more about treatment solutions and ways to prevent further damage. Please call 973-324-9324 to schedule a consultation.