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back saver methods & materials

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  • back saver methods & materials

    Hi there

    I’ve been in the business since I was a teenager working for my father and other contractors in the summers, eventually going to school for construction management and getting a degree. Therefore this is my career, it’s a passion also, so really there is no switching even though I am still young. I have my own small construction business that does a lot of custom finish work with the occasional small renovation. It’s me and helper, with some calls into carpenters I know from time to time for extra man power.

    The reason I bring this up is I recently had to have emergency back surgery (laminetocomy) as a herniated disc went from a pain to a serious problem in my lower back. The doctor said I really should switch careers and think about sitting behind a desk all day rather than continue working on jobsites. I have yet to go back to work as I cannot yet but I was wondering if anyone had some tips as to help protect my back as well maybe some tools or things they've learned along the way.

    Obviously I know I can’t jump right back in and will have to pace myself and be more careful than in the past. The helper will be doing a lot more than he did in the past. The goal is to eventually leave the field and do more office work, but I have a passion and pride in the work I do and am not ready to let it go all at once.

    Any thoughts or references are greatly appreciated.

  • #2
    Re: back saver methods & materials

    Here's how I approach it. If I can't roll it, then drag it. If I can't drag it then lift it. If I must lift it lever it. If I must muscle it get help. Just becaue I can lift it doesn't mean I should. I kind of look at it as though my back back has only so many lifts in it before it's shot. No sense wasting a lift when I can use an alternative method.

    Also, I set of moving straps is priceless as well as great pair of shoes.

    Lifting Straps:


    Also, don't cut your hair.
    there is ALWAYS a better way waiting to be discovered-


    • #3
      Re: back saver methods & materials

      My saws all have stands with wheels which saves my back but are still heavy putting in the back of the truck. I would like to buy a small LIGHT miter saw for the quick in-and-out jobs. My compressor is a heavy pig which can run all day but I bought a small light pancake one last week. I also bought a cheap panel lift which so far is working great because on some jobs I work alone.
      I have to go to the chiropractor every so often (last week in fact) for my back and I can go for even a year without trouble. Though I believe if we are always getting back problems we probably always will regardless of what we do.



      • #4
        Re: back saver methods & materials

        I find this is pretty helpful for carrying boards, especially up a ladder

        Alternatively, a C-clamp can do the same
        "Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. " - William Faulkner


        • #5
          Re: back saver methods & materials

          As you say, do not rush it! I've got a buddy who (for many understandable reasons) didn't take a couple months to let his post-op back heal, and sure enough, blew it out again. He ended up taking about 6 months off after the *second* surgery.

          Also (and I hesitate to bring this up; I don't want to "blame the victim", and I realize that back injuries can happen to anyone of any physique) but look at your body as a structure. If there's a very eccentric load being applied to it, expect issues. If you have a big belly (and almost all of us get a belly after 40 to some extent) think about what that's doing, structurally, to your spine. Sometimes losing weight is the key to a lot of body issues.
          “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” - Upton Sinclair


          • #6
            Re: back saver methods & materials

            Originally posted by rogerg View Post
            I would like to buy a small LIGHT miter saw for the quick in-and-out jobs.
            I did for the same reason. What a lifesaver. I use it 2 - 3 days a week. Got a Hitachi 10" from Reconditioned sales. I've about played it out after 2 yrs. I'm looking for another one.

            I've got 2 DW 12's. They don't move unless a deck or crown job. So only a few times a year does it go out with the stand.

            I also just got a recon PC 150 psi pancake from Tool King to replace the one I have of 4 yrs.

            My daily drivers are 10.8 v Hitachi. Have a 4 of them. Much eaisier. Replaced 12 v ni cad DW's.

            "Get three coffins ready" - A Fistful of Dollars 1964



            • #7
              Re: back saver methods & materials

              Howdy hope you heal up quick. I have been dealing with a broken back for 34 years and do ok. The blasc back supports with suspenders have made a world of difference for me i cut off the suspenders and wear it under of over my shirt helps a bunch. The little book working by yourself has great hints in lifting. Amazing what a 6" c clamp can do to help. But best of all is strong younger helpers


              • #8
                Re: back saver methods & materials

                i can only give the same advice i give to all the "rough tough" young fellas

                look after your back

                do they listen? ................ of course they dont
                Limey Carpenter


                • #9
                  Re: back saver methods & materials

                  Sorry to hear your pains, good luck. I am dealing with sciatica myself...have had it going on since March. I just got my MRI three weeks ago and have 3 bulging discs. We do full home construction and large remodels, and I lead a crew of 2 to 3 lots of heavy lifting all day. I have adjusted every move I make on and off the site, have been seeing a physical therapist 1-2 times a week for three months, but still having bad symptoms...not sure what the rest of the year will hold for my. I am thinking of hiring a low end laborer just to be my hands. I am 34 in good shape other than my back and the doctor told me the same thing about careers. I know how frustrating it can be and how easy it is just to jump in when you shouldn't. Best wishes and keep your head up. Work smart not hard, when you can.
                  Last edited by tucker; 08-22-2011, 06:35 PM.


                  • #10
                    Re: back saver methods & materials

                    gebruzzel1, this topic is all about back problems

                    the gorilla gripper does have some advantages in some cases BUT

                    please cease and desist your current practice immediatly

                    carrying plywood/osb "up a ladder" with a gorilla gripper puts a massive TWISTED strain on your back

                    find another method before you load the first sheet tomorrow

                    ........... not forgetting that with a gorilla gripper you only have one hand for the ladder
                    Last edited by Tom Bainbridge; 08-22-2011, 07:07 PM.
                    Limey Carpenter


                    • #11
                      Re: back saver methods & materials


                      Yea you're probably isn't the best for backs, but I still think its better than any alternative. Also, with the gorilla gripper, you are able to lift/lower panels while keeping your arms close to your body and bending at the knees, eliminating a lot of strain on the back.

                      Along the lines of what others have said, I've started buying tools with a focus more on lightweight/portability. Also, I am careful in the way I store my tools. Table saw and miter saw are kept right by the side door of the van, so I can remove/replace them from outside the van with my back straight. Finally realized hunching over in a van and pulling out a table saw is not only uncomfortable but terrible for my back.

                      Unless I'm gonna need to do any framing, my compressor is a Senco 1010.

                      If you're doing any drywall, think about getting it from a place that stocks the new ultra-light sheetrock. Supposedly considerably lighter.
                      "Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don't bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. " - William Faulkner


                      • #12
                        Re: back saver methods & materials

                        so right, its position and technique

                        this morning i watched a young labourer (out of the corner of my eye) shifting a few sheets of ply

                        so much wasted effort, when none was required
                        Last edited by Tom Bainbridge; 08-22-2011, 07:56 PM.
                        Limey Carpenter


                        • #13
                          Re: back saver methods & materials

                          on lightweight tools ive only once UP weighted

                          I got a kappex mainly because of it's bevel angle accuracy

                          if festool were to bring out a 7 1/4 inch trim saw like the makita 0714 at 29 pounds weight I would ditch the kappex in a split second: no trim carpenter needs a 10 inch saw

                          not even for crown, you can cut it flat
                          Last edited by Tom Bainbridge; 08-22-2011, 08:39 PM.
                          Limey Carpenter


                          • #14
                            Re: back saver methods & materials

                            Yoga has worked wonders for me.
                            Overall sitting around has been worse than working in general. For me working at foot level (baseboard, joists & hangers) were the bad days in the field.
                            Anyway, I spent a lot of time with chiropractors and still drop in every once in a while, but learning how to position the body and keeping it loose (which is what yoga does for me) has made much more of a difference.

                            Edit: probably not the first thing to do if you have a known issue; or do "gentle yoga" which focuses on mild stretching.

                            Favorite tool this week: Leatherman Wave

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                            Deconstruction: the thrifty, green start to your remodeling project


                            • #15
                              Re: back saver methods & materials

                              Had a herniated disc at L1 and a ruptured one at L4-L5. No operation, but a good chiropractor and doing what I was told, no deviation. Exercise properly to keep the lower back muscles fit. Sitting at a desk is NOT the best thing. Stand as long as you can and look into a Håag Balanz chair (SP). Also look into getting an inversion table. They can be got for $130.00. When your back is tired and you feel the twinges, 20 minutes on the table will make you a new man.
                              In my experience back support belts should only be used when doing the actual lift and then removed. Otherwise, you back muscles atrophy from not having to "work" and you end up even more susceptible to further injury.

                              It's better to try and fail, than fail to try.