How hand tools affect the back

Choosing hand tools that are ergonomically designed might quite literally save your back – so says John Dabb, Sales and Marketing Director at Hyde, who argues for the benefits of better design.

Few installers would ever consider the ergonomic benefits when they select a hand tool like a screwdriver or pliers, but could this be a short-termist approach? Some people will often complain of a sore back at the end of the day, but might just pass it off as a bit of strain caused by the way they’ve been working. Yet, the type of hand tools you use, how you use them and the comfort they provide can affect your back, as this is the area of your body that really takes the strain.

Whole system
This might seem a little far fetched, but it has been confirmed in independent research and tests by doctors and therapists that your choice of screwdriver could be the cause of that sore back. Any good doctor will tell you, when it comes to the subject of ‘back health’, the whole musculoskeletal system has to be taken into account. Each muscle, each bone and each joint affects the system as a whole, so if you’re not holding your tools in the best way it’s your back that ultimately pays for it.

There are some things you can do yourself to alleviate back pain. While correcting your posture and resting when you feel the ache begin can help save your back, choosing hand tools that have been proven to help prevent the pain in the first place is the best place to start.

Starting point
But where do you start looking and how can you tell whether a certain screwdriver will be better than another in preventing back pain, without a lot of trial and error? The trick is to look for the AGR symbol on the packaging. AGR is a campaign for healthier backs, that offers recommendations on products that help prevent muscle pain and back ache, resulting from their research. It’s also an independent committee made of medical experts, so they know their stuff and it means that AGR approval can be taken seriously for builders looking to make a purchase, rather than just being marketing gimmick.

AGR-approved hand tools can make a huge difference to your health. The secret is in the turn, and without getting too scientific, is based on the development of handles adapted to suit the size of your hand.

The four different SoftFinish handle sizes on Wiha screwdrivers, for example, mean that each handle offers the ideal balance of guidance, speed and torque for the respective fastening task. The handle size concept means that the user can both quickly screw in screws and transmit high levels of force. Shorter, thick handles are great for applying maximum power for larger screws with low fatigue levels, while long, slim handles with a thin quick-turning zone optimise the dynamic quick-turning action for small screws.

Soft spot
The Wiha SoftFinish screw-drivers feature soft and hard zones integrated into the handle of the tool to support the hand and reduce pains in the joints and muscles, not just in the hand but throughout the body.

It’s not just screwdrivers either – Wiha Inomic pliers have a specially angled head with an ergonomic shape that ensures your hand is in a comfortable position during use, relieving the strain. The concept enables you to work for longer while sparing the muscles and saving energy. Because of the way the hand is positioned on the tool, force is distributed evenly, rather than most of the hard work being done by one or two fingers, as with standard pliers.

Of course, back pain can’t be totally ruled out just by using ergonomically designed hand tools. You need to think about your posture, take a minute to readjust your position rather than straining, bend properly and rest up when necessary. These actions, combined with using the most suitable hand tools in the right way may just save your back.

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