The Plumber’s Toolkit for a Healthy Body & Healthy Mind: Part Two – Combatting Aches & Pains

As part of PlumbedIn’s Healthy Body & Healthy Mind series, , we’ve teamed up with leading wellbeing expert Jeannette Jackson, from the Manchester Stress Institute to give you advice on how to keep yourself healthy and improve your wellbeing. Here, Jeannette takes a look at common aches and pains for plumbers, and give you some top tips on how to combat them. 

From lifting tools and materials to squeezing yourself into some pretty awkward spots, being a plumber is physically demanding. So, it’s important to make sure you’re looking after your body to avoid aches and pains building up over time. 

We’ve taken a look at some of the most commons problems, but do remember that if pain persists or is especially bad, you should visit you doctor right away.  

  1. Plumber’s knee 

One of the biggest health issues is your knee(s). The condition prepatellar bursitis, is such a major problem that it has even become known as ‘plumber’s knee’. 

This is where pain and swelling appears at the front of the knee, sometimes gradually, but occasionally it can come on suddenly. Often, people describe sharp needle-like pain when kneeling – which let’s face it, is pretty much half the job in plumbing. It gets worse because repeated minor injury occurs when kneeling for long periods of time. 

So, what can be done about it? Clearly, the biggest stumbling block is the fact that plumbing is your livelihood, so it’s really difficult to avoid doing the very thing that is causing you pain. Taking the occasional break from work is advised, but the need to keep earning means that isn’t always an option. 

Something that can help is to protect your knee before you start to feel any pain at all. Ideally, this mean using a sleeve or a knee pad, which will soften the effect of kneeling on hard surfaces. If you find yourself on site without these for whatever reason, using a cushion or blanket (with the customer’s permission!) is a short-term solution. If your knee does start to ache, then following the RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) method in the evening might help. 

Ultimately, plumber’s knee is something that will affect many in the trade, even with safety precautions taken. But you should still do everything you can to combat it, such as wearing knee protectors and minimising kneeling where possible. 

  1. Lower back 

A bad back is something that impacts a lot of people – and the odd thing is that it can happen to office workers who sit down all day, as well as anyone doing manual labour. For plumbers, it’s another one that makes perfect sense. Think of all the awkward positions you have to get into, dozens of times a week. 

It’s not just that – you’re also going to be carrying around heavy tools and taking materials from your van to site. This is one area that you do have control over, and making sure that you are lifting heavy objects correctly is vital.  

  • Think before you lift – where is the load going? Is there any equipment that you could use? Have you removed potential obstructions?  
  • Keep the load close to the waist 
  • Don’t just lower yourself with your back, use your legs  

There are some good tips here on how to do it properly, and never be too proud to ask for help if something is especially heavy.  

Long-term damage due to the physical nature of plumbing is harder to prevent. Stretching can help, and the NHS has some advice on this, but it is also true that a good diet will have a big impact (as we touched on in our February newsletter). If you’re a little out of shape, that extra weight could be placing a strain on your back – so regular stretching and a healthy diet should be a priority. 

  1. Bad shoulder 

Again, this one will come as no surprise to anyone who has spent their working life stretching into awkward places. Repetitive movements – especially reaching to a height while carrying something heavy, such as a drill – are a big cause of long-term tissue damage. 

It may be a pain that develops over time, or one that comes on very quickly in the event of a muscle tear, and will make doing your job extremely difficult. In fact, shoulder pain can affect other areas of your life too – even sleeping! 

When it comes to preventing it – well, there’s a bit of a theme here. Stretching and resting wherever possible is your best bet, and avoiding lifting anything too heavy above your head. If something heavy does need to go up somewhere, then ask for help, get a friend – protect yourself and your career. 

Staying fit and healthy 

Who’d be a plumber, eh? It’s a job which requires you to do loads of physical exertion every day, which makes staying fit and healthy really important – but it’s one we know you love. So, the above covers some of the key issues to look out for, and some of the ways you can combat them – but as we said at the beginning, if the pain is hanging around or getting worse, see your doctor. 

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