Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I'm Perfectly Serious

I receive a newsletter from an organization that studies stressors on police officers in the field, including at the point of conflict. I have things to write about that--I have learned a lot.

But the thing that I keep thinking about on and off is a perhaps less acute problem--instead it's a nagging problem: the problem of lower back ache for police officers wearing lots of heavy equipment around their waists.

I know of at least one police officer with serious lower back pain. And he is not an officer with a pot gut that is swaying his spine. I'm willing to bed good cash that he does sit-ups, cross-training, and weighs the right amount.

And sometimes I think a little fix makes a big difference. So, in my armchair, without any experience whatsoever,  I keep turning to problems of Design and Ergonomics. I should say also that I haven't studied Ergonomics worth a damn. However, Design always interests me.

Does anyone out there understand the lower back? I would like to know where weight should be distributed. In addition, there has to be a way to include safety and security as well as ease of reach for these heavy tools and weapons that officers carry.

Francisco "Pancho" Villa (1877–1923)...Image via WikipediaSince I am also an armchair historian, I ruminated over historical methods. And this is funny, and I don't think it would work: the bandolier.  It's a bit of a stretch thinking that a modern LEO wants to imitate Pancho Villa.

But I am perfectly serious in my interest to this question. So please write in if you have any ideas whatsoever. It's turning into one of those symbolic concerns I think: there's just too darn much on a policeman's back.

And that might be the psychological truth behind some of that back pain after all.
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Anonymous said...

I used to get mid-back and even neck pain. What has made a big difference for me has been deadlifting. While the lift has a bad reputation for causing injury, done right it's one of the best exercises we coppers can do IMO.

Momma Fargo said...

I carried a light shoudler holster sometimes when I was a detective. It also caused back pain. Hated it. I would should like to imitate Pancho Villa, but in a different way. I don' t know if there is any good fix to our back stress with the cars, the extra gear, the belt pushing out back out while seated, and our knee problems in the cars. The best I have found are core exercises and cutting a tennis ball in half and doing a back exercise to reduce the posture problems. Wish we didn't have to carry any of that equipment, but you know how criminals roll.

Anonymous said...

Like Tgace suggests, lifting helps. That said, I do both deadlifts and squats, and continue to have lower back pain. There isn't really anything I could eliminate from my duty belt. .40 call Glock. Taser. Handcuffs. Latex Gloves. Flashlight. Radio. Two extra mags. Which could a cop realistically forgo? I already took off the OC spray, which is relatively light anyway. In addition, I use nylon suspenders to help distribute the weight over my shoulders instead of just the lower back. And still.

Yellow said...

I think T-rex got the email about stress something, study or what not. Anyway I was all for him doing something, because he seems to do nothing.

As for the back pain, I haven't a clue. I know T-rex's belt is much like LT's add a Tazzer, and forgo the gloves (The little glove thinggy was getting in his way so he keeps em in the truck now) Anyway he is always wanting to do something different to his belt because he says it "just doesn't work this way" yet there does not seem to be anything else he can do to make it fit better. If you find something out I am willing to put T-rex in the trial to see if it helps ;)

Ann T. said...

Dear tgace,
Thanks for the information and the link!

I'm glad to know that there are some solutions out there--

Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear Momma Fargo,
I didn't think about the car seat--and me in an armchair, no less!

Now that I can think about. The car seat could be modified and I think it should be.

I sometimes use a rolled towel to fix my shoulders--lay down with it along my spine and try to relax.

Thanks for the tips!
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear Lt.,
The exercises sound good, and so do the suspenders. I keep trying to think of a layout that would be convenient to hand, but differently distributed on the body (like the Bandolier, although--no).

I am sorry you still have chronic pain. It makes everything harder, I do know that.

Thanks for writing in,
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

dear Yellow,
You bring up what I think is a great point--the testing part. Also the liability part.

Any redistribution of weaponry/equipment is going to add different stressors. Also LEO tactics to protect their gun and equipment would require some different training, for resistance moves and so forth. I hadn't thought that far ahead.

Thanks for joggiing my brain! And poor t-Rex. I don't think he wants to be my guinea pig!

Not to worry, this solution is not coming tomorrow, I can see that!

Ann T.

W. Butler said...

I have not experienced severe back pain... yet. Sometimes my lower back aches from all the crap I carry around on my duty belt.

The things that have helped me out are doing sit ups and back extensions. Also, hanging upside down from time to time feels great. But you need an inversion table to do this.

Ann T. said...

Dear Officer Butler,
I used to have a stand-up job, and I also used to do sit-ups. I do know that weak stomach muscles weaken the back.

I'm glad you occasionally have access to an inversion table!

Thanks for writing in. It seems that the consensus is--something better for you all needs to be arranged.

Ann T.

Bob G. said...

At 58 years "young", I've got my share of back pain...
Comes and goes...

Must have been falling through a ceiling or two that contributed to THAT.
AND driving around a LOT.

I've got good days and back days, am not overweight, and realize that old man time wants to race me to my final destination.
I think I'll "lag back" for a while in this race...take it easy on MY back.

Good post and comments.

Hang tough, gang.

The Observer said...

Ann T:
looks like you got some good input!

I know that GM talked about modified seats in their new Chevy police car. I think Dodge and Ford were also considering the front seats.

EMTs/paramedics went through a time where holsters were used, but these have pretty much passed as the multiple pocket trousers came into use.

In KC I've noticed that most officers have their tasers in a separate holster, with the majority of the weight at the thigh, so they are worn lower than the service weapon. Some officers have both on the dominant hand side, some the taser on one side and the gun on the other. Then there's all the other stuff, about 15-20 lbs worth,I've been told.

Those who exercise, especially working on the the core, are on the right track, but it's hard to recover once injured. You'll always be sensitive in the back after that.

Great post, and comments.

The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob,
I do get the best comments ever.

I also think, upon reflection, that nothing beats the right pair of shoes, either. I don't know how our forbears made it without really good shoes.

Thanks for writing in!
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
I did get great comments. And then you just wrapped it all up for us!

Thanks a bunch!
Ann T.