It’s important to know how to prevent back pain if you spend your working hours in a heavy lead apron. Recent studies indicate that workers who wear lead aprons face a higher risk of musculoskeletal pain and complications.
Healthcare professionals who wear lead aprons have more job-related pain, and seek medical treatment for pain more often than other workers in the same facilities. Medical staff who are required to wear lead aprons for lengthy procedures are most severely affected.
Maintaining good posture is helpful, but only part of the solution. Back pain symptoms are miserable, but there are things you can try to find relief.
What Back Problems May Be Caused by Lead Aprons?
The overuse of lead aprons combined with prolonged standing or sitting, awkward or poor posture, and repetitive movements can cause back and neck injuries. These contributing factors may be aggravated by age-related or pre-existing issues of the muscles, vertebrae, and intervertebral discs.
A meta-analysis of studies of healthcare workers performing their duties while wearing lead aprons identified different types of back pain:
#1. Spine Diseases
- The number of years on the job was closely correlated with spinal disorders.
- Lumbar and cervical spondylosis (degeneration of the spine) were noted.
- Cervical disc herniation and multiple-level disc diseases were observed.
- Lumbosacral and cervical spinal disorders were identified.
#2. Musculoskeletal Pain
- Lead apron users reported general back and neck pain.
- More than half of frequent lead apron users complained of lower back pain.
- Almost half of the users reported shoulder and neck pain, and general body aches.
#3. Discomfort and Difficulty of Movement
- Users reported significant discomfort particularly in the neck, shoulders, and lumbar spine, as well as general fatigue.
- There was increasing thoracic discomfort and decreased ease of movement associated with lengthy procedures.
#4. Muscular Activity and Fatigue
- The trunk muscles were used extensively during all procedures, with consequent discomfort and fatigue.
- Wearing a lead apron significantly increased lower back and shoulder muscle activity in upright and forward-leaning postures.
- The muscles and tendons of the spine, neck, and shoulders showed accelerated fatigue development.
How To Prevent Back Pain from Lead Aprons
Barrier Technologies offers several solutions on how to prevent back pain from wearing a lead apron:
- Instead of wearing a one piece lead apron, you might find that our 2-piece vest and skirt options help ease your back pain. We have 3 alternatives, all of which come with shoulder pads and optional elastic skirt inserts:
- Support Vest and Skirt: This x-ray vest is lightweight and easy to wear for long periods of time. It comes with an integrated, adjustable lower back support belt that provides maximum support to the lower lumbar region to reduce body fatigue
- Barrier Flex Vest and Skirt: Instead of a belt, this protection medical vest for radiation is equipped with elastic back support that provides greater comfort during long procedures.
- Standard Vest and Skirt: Our standard x-ray vest emphasizes freedom of movement and gives you a full range of motion for long procedures.
- We also offer lead-free aprons which are 30-40% lighter. Besides being much easier on your back, they are environmentally friendly and non-polluting. Our proprietary, lead-free Tungsten based attenuating composite is only 1% less effective at shielding than traditional lead. This means that you don’t have to sacrifice safety for comfort.
- Another advanced innovation is our patented TerminatorXR mobile lead shield. This breakthrough in radiation protection technology frees you from heavy lead aprons for long procedures. Our portable TerminatorXR is body contoured, height adjustable, and fully encapsulating. It provides 2.0mm Pb protection which is 4x more protection than a typical 0.5mm Pb standard protective apron.
Some Tips for Relieving Back Pain
Besides seeking alternatives to your lead apron in your workplace, there are lifestyle and behavioral changes that you can help alleviate the discomfort of back pain symptoms:
Check Your Posture
Stand with your heels, calves, buttocks, shoulders, and back of your head against a wall. This is your correct posture. As they say, hold your head high and chin up!
Get More Exercise
Bed rest is not the right treatment for back pain. Regular physical activity can help ease inflammation and muscle tension. Get some gentle exercise.
Watch Your Weight
Carrying extra pounds, especially around the belly, shifts your center of gravity forwards and puts strain on your lower back. Try to stay within 10 pounds of your ideal weight.
Get the Right Chair
Get a chair with a straight back or lower back support. Your knees should be a bit higher than your hips when sitting—prop your feet on a stool if necessary.
Be Careful How You Lift Things
Bend your knees and squat, holding the object close to your body as you stand up. Let your legs do the lifting and keep your back straight. Don’t twist your body or bend at the waist.
Ditch those high-heeled shoes and tight jeans that may contribute to back pain. Also, a backpack or messenger-style bag that crosses your body is better than a heavy purse or briefcase carried on one side.
Smokers often experience back pain, probably due to coughing and decreased blood flow.
When To See a Doctor
Most back pain usually resolves itself within a few weeks without treatment. Over-the-counter analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications can help. You can also try ice packs or heating pads.
However, if your back pain persists, you may have a more serious underlying condition that is aggravated by your use of a lead apron. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if:
- Your back pain is not improving after a week.
- The pain is constant or intense, especially when you lie down.
- The pain extends down one or both legs.
- You are experiencing weakness, numbness, or tingling.
- There is any swelling or redness on your back.
At Barrier Technologies, your safety is our concern. If the physical strain of wearing a heavy lead apron is causing you back problems, we have solutions that may alleviate your discomfort and pain. Browse our website and catalogs to discover more about our various styles and types of apparel, lightweight Tungsten based lead-free options, and mobile Terminator XR barriers. Our expert consultants can advise you on how to prevent back pain.