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Have a physically demanding job? Look after your body as you get older

Man with a strapped knee sits near a running path for a story about staying healthy when your job is physically demanding.
When your body is painful or sore from work, it can be tempting to push through. But it’s not going to help in the long run.(

If you work in a physically demanding job, your body is the tool you rely on to support yourself and your family. What happens when it stops working?

It’s a question many Australians are left to answer, especially as they get older.

Needless to say, a big part of the problem is our tendency to ignore health problems in the hope they’ll go away.

A 2018 survey commissioned by the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA), showed that not only are almost a quarter of tradies not seeking help from a professional for an injury early enough, they treat their equipment better than their bodies.

It’s not just tradies, either. Countless jobs require spending long hours on your feet without a break. It’s also work like nursing and aged care, where your body is often bending, twisting and lifting.

Whether you’re worried about a sore back, or are feeling constantly worn out, here are some strategies for looking after the most important tool you have: your body.

Working with niggles and injuries will catch up with you

Across the Australian economy, work-related injury and disease is estimated to cost more than $60 billion each year — and workers are often left to bear the costs.

“[They’ll say:] ‘Now, I’m just managing a sore back every day. I didn’t realise what was at stake’.”

While injury rates are consistently falling over time, there’s still a long way to go.

Part of it is culture, add Mr Hall, who chairs the APA’s occupational physio group.

Tradespeople and labourers, especially when young, can feel pressure to “be a hero”, Mr Hall says. It might be refusing to ask for help while carrying a load, or coming to work despite an injury.

A construction worker pours cement or concrete using a pipe.
Tradespeople — especially those who are self-employed — often delay seeking treatment for injuries or niggles.(Unsplash: Yury Kim

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One of the most at-risk groups is tradesmen who are self-employed.

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