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Try These Pain-Saving Tips

You crawl out of your combine after a 12-hour day and wonder why farming is such a pain in the neck.

Musculoskeletal pain is an occupational risk for farmers, but it's gaining momentum as a public health problem. At any given time, 15% to 20% of the U.S. population complains of back pain, according to a 2009 Duke University Medical Center survey. A National Health Interview Survey shows chronic low back and neck pain affected 8.3% of people in 2006, up from 3.2% in 1997.

It's painful to the pocketbook, too. Nonmedical costs (including lost productivity) for arthritis, back pain, headache, and other musculoskeletal pain drain $61.2 billion per year from the economy – and erode your bottom line.

Pain worsens with age, but a Research! America survey shows people under 35 are about as likely to have chronic pain as those over 35. It often stems from bad habits.

"Osteoarthritis can start with improper body mechanics," says Amber Wolfe, AgrAbility Project coordinator, Indiana Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, Indianapolis. Here are five proactive tips.

1. Be A Savvy Driver. Set seat back almost straight up from the floor with head tilted back slightly. Rest elbows on arm sets and keep hands in the 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock positions. (Get out to stretch, but don't jump out.)

2. Exercise Regularly. Exercise is an underutilized antidote for chronic musculoskeletal pain. "Weight-bearing exercise builds bone strength and joint flexibility, and slows deterioration of cartilage," Wolfe says. (Visit and click on Fitness for exercise videos.)

3. Keep A Healthy Weight. Excess weight, especially in the stomach, causes lower back problems. "Weight stresses knee and hip joints, and the lower back," she says.

4. Avoid Prescription Pain-Relief Patches. Improper use of the prescription patch, fentanyl, has caused over 100 deaths. Over-the-counter patches (shown above) contain camphor or menthol. They're less potent but are safer.

5. Minimize Use Of Steroid Injections. Medicare claims from 1994 to 2001 show a 271% jump in lower back injections, reports The Spine Journal. The documented benefit for how well steroid injections work is limited.

Acetaminophen, a key ingredient in Tylenol and many other over-the-counter pain relievers, is a leading cause of overdose-related liver damage. The FDA panel vote to eliminate prescription drugs such as Vicodin and Percocet doesn't affect any other medications that combine acetaminophen with antihistamines and other drugs.

About 56,000 people end up in emergency rooms annually because they exceed the recommended dosage.

Two Free Brochures: Arthritis Answers and Back Pain
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You crawl out of your combine after a 12-hour day and wonder why farming is such a pain in the neck.

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