I am an ergonomist and I have a bad back

Hello, my name is Kirsty. I’m an ergonomist and I have a bad back. Oh, the irony!!!

On Monday this week I was casually walking down my stairs at home carrying a plate that I was bringing to the kitchen. There were about 8 steps to go and that’s the last I know until I found myself at the bottom of the stairs, plate smashed everywhere, bewildered at what had just happened. I got up pretty quickly and whilst feeling a little bruised, felt absolutely fine. I went about my day, did some work in my office and then played 2 hours of tennis in the evening.

The next morning, I woke up feeling fine again. I put my elbows down on the sofa eating my breakfast and remembered that I had grazes across my elbows and arms which were still stinging a bit.

On Wednesday morning I was up at 5am to travel to London for the next few days. I usually carry a rucksack with my ‘work stuff’ and a small duffle bag. I arrived at my client’s office and was due to be conducting training all day and workstation assessments which would mean bending down to adjust people’s chairs and equipment.

The first few hours were fine. My back felt a bit tight but nothing that I hadn’t experienced before. It wasn’t until about lunchtime where I was just walking to do my next workstation assessment and my back completely went. Every step I took (there’s a song in there somewhere), every angle I moved or anything I tried to lift (even a glass of water) felt like a dagger in my back. I was in complete agony.

I managed to get through the afternoon and go home to my friend’s where I was staying. By this point my back had completely seized up and I could barely get down to sit on the toilet properly or lay on the bed.

From experience of working with people with bad backs I know that the best thing to do is to keep moving so throughout that afternoon I was getting up regularly, sitting and standing at my desk. I tried to do some stretching but this was too painful.

I woke up the next morning still in agony and so contacted my friend Jaro who does sports massages and Rolfing. Rolfing is a form of hands-on bodywork and movement training that re-organises the connective tissue of the body (fascia) so that it can function more effectively.

I had a day of agony training people on ergonomics and conducting workstation assessments. At least I got a few laughs out of the audience due to my predicament. I walked about 20 minutes to the gym he works at. I say walk, it was a bit of a shuffle really and I’m sure the Londoners behind me did not appreciate it. Sorry!

I explained to Jaro what had happened, and he started to treat me. Within about 4 minutes I already felt better. I could move without pain, I could walk without pain. He spent some time on my lower back, glutes and pelvis, along with my neck, shoulders and trapezius. I felt like a new woman walking out of the gym.

This morning I have woken up quite groggy and feeling bruised. However, the dagger like pain has completely disappeared and I suspect that by tomorrow I’ll be close to normal which is handy because I fly to Florence for the IEA Conference!

I guess the reason for this more personal post is to explain to people that even with the most preventative measures, something can happen out of your control, and you’re back can go.

The important thing is that whilst it is probably one of the worst pains you can go through (I haven’t ever been in labour or been kicked in the you know whats so…), it is important to keep moving through the pain otherwise you are likely to do yourself more damage or cause a longer recovery period.

My only caveat to this is that playing tennis a few hours later was probably not the best idea. After a fall I would advise that you carry on with normal day to day activities but not anything too strenuous (even if you feel fine) and see how you go for the next couple of days as the discomfort or pain can materialise over time like it did with me.

In fact, many people experience back pain from falls or sports injuries many years after.

If you have the resources and are able to definitely go to a treatment specialist and get treated. Even with acute pain, they should be able to treat you. Whilst it will be a very painful experience it will start the recovery process much earlier on and will be a quicker journey back to normal.

As I write this I’m feeling much better. The thought of pizza, pasta and gelato and a couple of glasses of Italy’s finest wine is probably helping.

Keep in touch as I’ll be posting updates about the conference and what new ergonomics research is out there throughout the week and most probably a few selfies. I do love a good selfie.

Happy Friday, have a great weekend and watch those backs!



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