Forklift Use and Lower Back Pain

This is my first post on this forum so I'll give a little background and then ask my question.

I've been in the freight industry for about 7 years as everything from a truck driver, dock worker to supervisor. I'm currently an ops supervisor tasked with a lot more than I've ever been trained for but I'm able to get the job done.

Now the question. Has anyone found a correlation between low back pain and forklift use? I'm doing some research for myself as I suffer from chronic back pain and have found that if I spend any extended time on a forklift, my pain is exacerbated. I've had back pain for years even before forklift use so I know it's not the root cause but it's greatly increased after a shift of loading/unloading trucks.

Our environment is 95% indoor on flat, level concrete. We load trucks over a manually operated dock plate and none of them have a smooth transition from dock to trailer. I know slowing down upon entry/exit will reduce the jarring effects......that's a no-brainer.

However, I'm finding online words such as "dock shock" and "WBV" (whole body vibration) as potential causes of lower back pain. Is there any meat to these causes?

I'm not looking to change the forklift world nor am I looking for information to create a class-action lawsuit against anyone. I'm looking for ways to prevent/reduce lower back fatigue for the guys on my dock and maybe find some relief for myself in the process.

Thanks in advance for any input.

  • Posted 25 May 2010 01:43
  • Discussion started by DockPlate
  • Texas, United States
Showing items 1 - 15 of 23 results.
Regarding your question about the correlation between forklift use and lower back pain, there is indeed evidence supporting that prolonged forklift operation, especially on uneven surfaces, can exacerbate back issues. Terms like "dock shock" and "whole body vibration (WBV)" are well-known contributors to lower back pain in such environments. These conditions cause repetitive jolts and vibrations that can strain your back muscles and spine.

To help mitigate this discomfort, I recommend investing in a high-quality gel seat cushion for car & office chair. A gel seat cushion can provide enhanced support and distribute weight evenly, reducing pressure on your lower back during long shifts on the forklift. For relief both at work and in the office, you might consider these highly-rated options:

Gel Seat Cushion for Pressure Relief
2-Pack Gel Seat Cushion for Car & Office Chair
Orthopedic Gel Seat Cushion for Back Pain Relief
These cushions are designed to alleviate discomfort and support proper posture, making them ideal for preventing and reducing back pain. Using them consistently could provide significant relief and improve your overall comfort during work.

I hope this helps and wish you the best in finding relief for your lower back pain!
  • Posted 18 Jun 2024 19:16
  • Modified 18 Jun 2024 21:37 by administrator
  • Reply by Clara_Galle
  • New Jersey, United States
And back pain can be caused by activities away from work that are not related. For example, I had to give up golf because of back pain, I have a degenerative disc in my neck (heredity issue - I was built wrong w/ no warranty) and it causes mucho pain at times in strange place that nervous system we have is very complicated. - won't go under the knife - just physical therapy and home exercise works - don't want to risk a slip of the scapulae by Dr. Shaky Hands for a procedure that "might" comeback - but PT ain't cheap
Some people try to get their employers insurance to cover the cost of treatments.
  • Posted 18 Nov 2021 21:44
  • Reply by johnr_j
  • Georgia, United States
"Have An Exceptional Day!"
I want to remind everyone that insurance is very important for your health! Read more about insurance https://american-reia.com/health-insurance/cobra-insurance/ and don't be afraid to see a doctor if you have the slightest discomfort. I also ask my employer to give me a lighter job or temporarily transfer me to another job if I have the slightest discomfort.
  • Posted 15 Nov 2021 21:38
  • Reply by Micorat
  • California, United States
Hey there,

Driving forklifts with lower back pain can be a challenge.
Forklift operators mainly suffer from lower back pain due to poor posture. Working for a long period in poor posture increases the chances of back and neck pain. Rather than sitting for a long period, you should take regular breaks. Some treatments can alleviate lower back pain. One of the most effective treatment is physiotherapy, which has no side effects. I'm a Software Engineer, and due to the current pandemic situation, I'm working from home. Working longer in a poor posture resulted in back pain. I visited a
nearby physiotherapy clinic(https://dynamicphysiotherapy.ca/), and after three to four sessions, I got relief.
That's the main reason why I'm suggesting you start physiotherapy treatment to get relief from lower back pain.

hmmm, saw this come up in my 'recent forum posts list' and yeah, backpain can be a problem if you spend much time driving a lift during the day. But i saw the date this was originally posted and thought, sure why not, new commentary isn't a waste of time if it helps people right?
Well my.02 worth i guess ;o)
Look at reducing the amount of shock your body receives while driving the machine would be the key goal i suppose.
There are 4 things to consider,
1- the type of tires you have on the lift, since the shockwaves from impacts travel through the lift you would want a good cushion tire, not too hard, not too soft. Definitely NOT a poly tire, they are very hard and do not reduce the shock from impacts at all. A good rubber tire like a non-marking type would have the best effect but you would also have to deal with wear issues as the softer tire would wear out faster but given your goal is to aid in reducing operator wear and tear that's a small price to pay compared to the medical costs to the operator and downtime that leads to reduced productivity.
2- the seat you use on your lift, a good suspension seat is also key to reducing shock to the operator while driving a lift. If you have a good seat that has good cushioning in the padding and also a mechanism in the seat suspension that will also reduce shock to the operator. Sure good suspension seats are expensive but the cost ratio of production, operator health costs is a no brainer.
Buy the good seat and he will be happier, healthier and will work and produce more in the long run ;o)
3- now this might seem a bit picky and most people don't think about it much but every guy usually keeps a wallet in their back pocket, that causes you to sit with your lower spine in an awkward position slightly. You might not think so but it does, that is not normal positioning for your spine so i can over extended periods of time cause pain in your spine that radiates outwards and can get to be extreme if you don't remedy that problem by just taking your wallet out of your pocket. I had a therapist tell me that once and i thought to myself, they were crazy, i've had a wallet in my back pocket for years and never had problems before. But low and behold, when i took it out while i was sitting, a lot of that pain went away when i started sitting properly without anything in my back pockets.
4- use a back brace. If you have issues with your back, using a back brace will help hold your spine straight and take the stress away from the muscles. They can help a lot. Most doctors will give you one anyway if your being treated for back pain and alignment issues so why not right?
But all in all i think the things mentioned will make a world of difference.

Not to mention some exercising can help tone your muscles and strengthen them to help keep your spine straight. Now i know not everyone can do this because of chronic problems but if you can, do it ;o)

Hope everyone has had a great holiday and hope your new year is as well, stay safe and healthy everyone ;o)
  • Posted 31 Dec 2020 04:04
  • Reply by swoop223
  • North Carolina, United States
You've been swooped!
I have the high end full suspension seats Where I am at. They are not cheap,but you look at the operator fatigue reduction not to mention fewer complaints of back issues at the end of a shift the increase in productivity more than pays for it. We also replace seat cushions have tears and holes on a regular basis. A decent seat can run from 750. to 1500.00 Look what you save in loss of productivity ,sick time due to lower back pain , and such. The cheap 79.99 specials are just that cheap. I do not know what you would have to do to let management know these facts but any fork lift dealer can upgrade your seats
  • Posted 30 Dec 2020 22:14
  • Reply by triumphrider
  • Texas, United States
It really comes down to how you use the equipment you are provided with more than anything else! I also work on a daily basis with forklifts and noticed that some are nastier than the rest of them! If you want my advice after all the different models I've used is that buying from the right person that has in mind your well-being as well as saving your money and time, makes a big difference. So if you rest your case and realize that lawsuits won't win you a thing, and you still need a good and safe forklift, just go and buy another one.
  • Posted 29 Dec 2020 02:41
  • Modified 29 Dec 2020 06:24 by administrator
  • Reply by Simoliam
  • Indiana, United States
It really comes down to how you use the equipment you are provided with more than anything else!
  • Posted 26 Dec 2020 05:18
  • Reply by Simoliam
  • Indiana, United States
One thing that you should consider is how comfortable is the chair. The other thing is how much movement you do during the day.
  • Posted 25 Dec 2020 01:39
  • Reply by Simoliam
  • Indiana, United States
Often back pain occurs in the workplace. Prolonged sitting in the wrong position can lead to chronic muscle fatigue and subsequent pain. Back pain also often provokes work associated with frequent bending and lifting of weight. Don't think that plank may hurt, but just in case here is one of many tiger balm uses that can help https://www.tigerbalm-baumetigre.com/blog/46-uses-tigerbalm/
Great post....
  • Posted 7 Sep 2017 16:49
  • Reply by backtolife_c
  • New South Wales, Australia
I'll soon be 72 & I have lower back pain now. Never had a back problem until this year. Guess I'm just getting old or it has something to do with recently cutting down a 40+ ft. tall x 25+ feet wide Bradford pear tree limb by limb that split & fell across my drive way. BTW they have a a whole lot of limbs

And our some what expensive Lazy Boy chair w/ vibration, lumbar adjustment, heated doesn't give me any relief. Dang! The bottom cushion is definitely contoured to my buttock during football season.

My Doctor said I will survive but stay off ladders indefinitely and away from chain saws for a while.

Oh this rant has nothing to do with F/L either but I was around them for 41 years.
  • Posted 15 Jul 2016 20:09
  • Reply by johnr_j
  • Georgia, United States
I have a 2012 Kia Soul that I purchased last June 2012. Soon after, I started having back pain which I've never experienced before. This pain only occurred after long drives or extreme traffic in my city.I called Kia of North America and they told me I was the first person who has ever has this problem with this car in the whole country.Then i contact to Las Vagus Back Pain Doctor and they relieve me from pain.
  • Posted 4 Jul 2016 20:24
  • Reply by sandness_p
  • Florida, United States
Unfortunately, all of our lifts are sit-down lifts. We only have 4 on our dock but they are antiques. I think one of them is still hand-crank start (kidding).

Getting service on our lifts entails sending them to one of our other terminals for repairs which means even the simplest repair (such as R&R of a tilt cylinder) takes a week. All but one of our lifts have over 15,000 hours on them (including a Yale dinosaur) so they're constantly needing bits and pieces fixed.

One of them, the seat had torn on the left side so the guy who uses it most bought some twin and stitched it back together. It's now known as "Frankenseat".

It's not an ideal situation but one we have to deal with. In the past, when it comes time to rotate out forklifts, we send up junk and get worse junk in return. It's gotten to where I've even done basic tune-ups on the lifts with parts from our regional repair depot just so I'm not without a forklift for a week.

Ok, done rambling and whining. I'm sure there are others out there with bigger issues and this was actually started to research back pain. Back on topic, DockPlate!
  • Posted 27 May 2010 13:31
  • Reply by DockPlate
  • Texas, United States
See the Crown RC5500 with FlexRide. This is a stand up dock truck with a weight adjustable, spring suspended floor board.
  • Posted 27 May 2010 13:22
  • Reply by cook
  • Ohio, United States

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