TAKE IT EASY: Lismore pain specialist Verona Chadwick sees many tradespeople with work-related injuries, such as plumber Ben Rigby.
TAKE IT EASY: Lismore pain specialist Verona Chadwick sees many tradespeople with work-related injuries, such as plumber Ben Rigby. Melissa Gulbin

Pain is very draining

PLUMBERS, like all tradies, are often called upon to twist their bodies into S-bend shapes to squeeze into tight spaces and Lismore plumber Ben Rigby knows the damage this can cause.

After lifting a new toilet weighing 20kg in and out of position several times, Mr Rigby had severe lower back pain that limited bending, sitting and his ability to work.

"I was leaning down making a downpipe and literally just stood up and suddenly my back went clang!" he said.

"At the time I didn't pay enough attention to it, I tried to work through it and ended up making myself worse - to the point where I couldn't put my socks on. I could barely walk.

"When you're self-employed that's an issue. If you can't work, you can't get paid."

For Mr Rigby, the solution was a combination of acupuncture, massage and special exercises "which helped me come good quick".

His pain specialist, Verona Chadwick, wants tradies to understand they're not indestructible.

"Tradies like Ben are often required to work in awkward positions, often bending and twisting their bodies under load," Ms Chadwick said.

"Tradies are expected to do a hell of a lot.

"It can happen to anybody, no matter how strong and how muscular you are, because there is a weak link in the spine that is only as strong as the muscles that are around it.

"Those muscles are put under stress through everyday work but there are simple exercises tradies can do each morning to warm up and strengthen and just like Ben they could be pain-free afterwards."

What advice would Ben share?

"There're no prizes for being a hero trying to lift something that you can't."

According to WorkSafe and Safe Work Australia:

  • At least 10 tradespeople are injured every day at work, with 17,000 injuries recorded between 2007-13
  • The most common injury (22% of all injuries) for plumbers working in the construction industry is to the back
  • Between 2007-13, tradie injury claims cost almost $1 billion


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