How to Avoid Back Pain when Working in the Trades

By Real Deals for You

If you work in the trades, chances are you will have experienced back pain at some point during your career. The physically demanding nature of the job means it’s more or less inevitable.

According to the 2017 report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), work-related  musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSDs) are most common in the construction industry – with a prevalence of about 2,500 cases for every 100,000 workers – but joiners, landscapers, decorators, electricians and plumbers are among those frequently cited as high risk as well.

In 2016/17, an estimated 8.9 million working days were lost in Great Britain as a result of WRMSDs. Lost working days are less than ideal – especially if you’re working for yourself when a sick day also means no pay. Too often people choose to grin and bear it, which can have long-term repercussions. But there are a number of steps you can take to minimise the risk of developing back pain at work…


Work that involves stooping for long periods of time can strain the lower back as well as the knees, so try taking the work environment up to waist level instead of working on the floor. This may mean storing materials off ground level to ensure easy access to them or simply changing the order in which you carry out jobs.

The Black & Decker Dual Height Workmate can be used as an adjustable workbench, bench tool stand, vice, or saw horse to minimise stooping. And the Kunys 3 Pocket Split Grain Nail and Tool Pouch will keep your hammer, nails and tape measure right by your side, eliminating the need to bend down.

Overhead work

Repetitive overhead work can often lead to tension in your shoulders and neck. Ensure regular breaks are taken and try to limit the constant time spent working on overhead tasks to avoid injury. To minimise the strain associated with working overhead, and to reduce the need for stooping, you can also use tools with extension handles – such as these Fiskars SmartFit Telescopic Hedge Shears.


You’ll no doubt already be familiar with the various literature available on how to lift correctly, such as the guidance outlined in the HSE’s Manual Handling Assessment Charts. But the HSE also recommend a few other steps you can take to minimise strain; for example, opting for half bags instead of full bags or distributing the contents of full bags into smaller quantities.

When lifting heavier items, always try to use handling aids where appropriate as well – such as cushioned grips, rolling carts or powered carts.

Exercises to do at work

There are also a number of simple exercises recommended which can help keep your back, shoulder and neck muscles limber during the working day. All stretches can be done throughout the day when you feel tension building up to help minimise the risk of developing back pain.

Neck stretch

  • Tilt head sideways without twisting the neck
  • Using your hand, reach across head and move ear toward shoulder
  • Do not pull head, use weight of arm alone
  • Extend other arm and move it slightly backwards until you feel mild tension
  • Hold for 15 seconds
  • Repeat on other side

Lower back

  • Stand upright with your feet shoulder width apart
  • Lean forward and twist to touch your right foot with your left hand (or your right shin if you can’t reach), keeping your legs as straight as possible
  • Extend your other arm up into the air behind you and hold for 15 seconds
  • Repeat on the other side

Chest pull

  • Lace your fingers together behind your lower back
  • Pull your hands up and back a few inches behind you, allowing your shoulders to roll back

Shoulder and back of upper arm stretch

  • Stand and place your right hand on your left shoulder
  • With your left hand, pull the right elbow across the chest and toward the left shoulder, letting your right hand move away from your shoulder
  • Hold for 15 seconds
  • Repeat on the other side

Reverse shoulder shrugs

  • Shrug your shoulders upwards towards your ears
  • Then place them back down toward the ground and behind you

Elbow presses

  • Bring your elbows out away from the body at shoulder level.
  • Pull your elbows back as far as you can, causing the muscles around your shoulder blades and upper back to contract before you bring the elbows back to the starting point.
  • Continue performing reps until you get a mild ‘burn’ in the muscles.

We hope you find these tips and exercises useful and that they keep you pain-free! Of course, if you are having persistent back pain and struggling to meet demands at work as a result of it, we’d recommend seeking the help of a trained professional. You can find a list of reputable chiropractors near you on the British Chiropractic Association website. 

We have a range of quality products available at fantastic prices, to help ensure all your work is carried out as safely as possible – to the highest possible standard. So visit your local Real Deals for You Approved Stockist today to pick up the best deals!