Auto upholstery is not a craft that’s easy on the body. No matter how strong you are, all of the pulling, bending, heavy lifting and long hours spent crouched over a sewing machine will eventually take their toll – especially on your back.
In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that “full-time upholsterers experience a rate of work-related injury and illness that is higher than the average among all occupations”.
Skeptical? Just ask a veteran auto trimmer how his back feels. You won’t like the answer.
But that doesn’t mean that you too are doomed to a lifetime of aches and pains. By taking the proper precautions, you can prevent or curb further injury to your back. Here’s how:
1. Improve Your Lifting Form
You’ve heard it before: “Lift with your legs, not your back.” But did you know that there’s actually a lot more to the rule?
FamilyDoctor.org explains that you should keep your body facing an object while you lift it, pick it up slowly and keep it close to your body the entire time that it’s in your hands. While transporting the object, keep your back straight and carry the heavy load between your shoulder and waist. This will put less strain on your back muscles.
Never jerk an item off the ground, twist your body while carrying it or hold a heavy load away from your body. These are sure-fire ways to cause injury.
And remember, the same rules also apply to when lowering a heavy object down to the ground.
2. Lift in Partners
When possible, lift with a partner. There’s no glory in lifting a bench seat all by yourself if it’s going to throw out your back.
If you run a one-man operation, invest in a heavy-duty lift table or even just a wheel cart. You’ll still have to do some lifting, but it’ll make transporting heavy items across the shop floor a lot easier and safer.
3. Wear a Lifter’s Belt
You wouldn’t enter a construction zone without wearing a hard hat, right? So why would you even consider lifting a heavy item without wearing a weight lifter’s belt? Chiropractors say that wearing one can help keep your spine in the correct position during heavy lifting.
Just be careful not to keep the belt on all day. Wearing one when it’s not necessary can do more harm than good, especially if your back muscles come to rely on the added support.
4. Go Easy on Your Knees
If you spend long hours crouched on the ground, invest in a pair of quality knee pads. Or, at the very least, kneel on a piece of high-density foam.
The body is interconnected. Kneeling on bare asphalt or concrete doesn’t only hurt your legs, but forces you to contort your body in such a way that unnecessary stress is added to your back.
5. Mind Your Seating Posture
Believe it or not, the way you sit in a sewing chair can have a direct affect on your back. Sewing.org has published a handy guide titled “Sewing Room Setup for Healthy Sewing” that explains the ideal position:
When sitting, your knees should be slightly lower than your hips. Your seat and hips should be fully “in” the chair. Position your legs out in front of you at a comfortable angle with your feet touching the floor. If your sewing table height is not adjustable and the chair is, you may need to raise the chair to fit the table and put a footrest under the chair to support your legs.
If sitting like this makes it difficult for you to see what you’re doing, consider installing a stronger table lamp or even an adjustable magnifying lens.
6. Listen to Your Body
Work hard, but take great care to listen to what your body tells you. Minor aches and pains are warning signs that if you continue what you’re doing, you’re going to cause serious injury.
If your body feels over stressed, take a break. If working in a specific position hurts, change positions. Never push through the pain. That’s how you exasperate the problem and knock yourself out of commission.
Have any tips to share? Please post any tips or advice that you’d like to share with fellow auto trimmers on how to prevent back injury in the comments section below.