Police officers handle a range of physically taxing jobs during the course of duty each day. From wearing a heavy and bulky duty belt to sitting in a cruiser for extended periods of time, police officers have occupational hazards that can lead to chronic lower back pain. This pain can make it impossible to complete the demands of the job effectively and can sometimes force officers to seek disability or early retirement. There are some ways to limit the damaging effects that the daily demands call for

Common Causes of Back Pain for Police Officers

  • Extended sitting: A large part of the job for many cops involves sitting in a cruiser, sometimes for hours at a time. Seats in these cars are not designed with this in mind, leaving the lower back largely unsupported. When officers are sitting for long periods of time, the lower part of the spine is strained because it is supporting the rest of the spine in an uncomfortable position.
  • Extended standing: Police officers often have to perform tasks that require endurance. This includes standing or running for stretches of time. When they are patrolling a neighborhood on foot all day, for example, the spine becomes fatigued. When the spine is chronically fatigued and not looked after properly, long-term damage and pain can be the result.
  • Late night hours: Working long hours can be tiring for the whole body including the spine. Late night working hours can make officers more inclined to eat unhealthy food and lose valuable sleep time which is supposed to replenish vitamins and minerals in the body. Consistently working long and late hours can ultimately be detrimental to the body.
  • Duty belt: Wearing a duty belt every day can put stress on the spine and neck. On average, a typical duty belt weighs about ten pounds and is worn around the waist all day. This constant weight is one of the leading causes of back pain in police officers, especially when the weight is not distributed evenly.
  • Duty vest: As with the duty belt, duty vests are heavy too. Wearing a vest on a day-to-day basis can put strain on an officer’s neck, shoulders, and upper back due to uneven weight distribution. This can lead to upper extremity pain as well.

Limit the Damage Caused by the Common Causes of Back Pain

For officers still actively serving, there are a few ways to limit the damage that those listed above cause. For those who have to sit for extended periods of time in a car, alter the seat with a lower back pillow to provide more support. If possible, get out of the car and walk at least once an hour as well. This change in pressure on the spine can prevent stress and continual damage while also allowing the back to stretch.

With the damaging impact of duty belts becoming more widely known, there have been efforts to alter them to make them more advantageous to the back in recent years. Some experts have recommended wearing suspenders under the uniform that help to support the belt and relieve the weight that the spine is supporting. This is a helpful tip for officers who are experiencing pain as it is financially feasible and doesn’t require the belt to be worn in a drastically different manner.

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