Back Pain and Repetitive Motion Injuries

Anyone can get a repetitive strain injury. Workers with physically demanding jobs and people who sit at a desk or use a computer often are at an increased risk of developing back pain and repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). These injuries can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Carrying heavy loads
  • Bending and twisting repeatedly
  • Poor posture when sitting or standing
  • Working in awkward positions

Causes of Back Pain and Repetitive Motion Injuries

The causes of back pain and RSIs in postal workers can be divided into two categories:

  • Physical factors: These include the tasks that workers perform on a daily basis, such as lifting heavy objects, carrying heavy loads, bending and twisting repeatedly, and using vibrating tools.
  • Ergonomic factors: These include the way that work spaces are set up, such as the height of their workstations, the type of chairs they use, and the amount of space you have to move around.

How to Prevent Back Pain and Repetitive Motion Injuries

There are a number of things that you can do to prevent back pain and RSIs, including:

  • Lifting safely: Lift heavy objects with the help of a coworker or a mechanical device. Bend your knees when lifting, keep your back straight, and use your legs to do the lifting.
  • Carrying safely: Try not to carry heavy loads by yourself. Use a cart or a dolly to transport heavy loads.
  • Bending and twisting safely:  If you can avoid bending and twisting at the waist. Instead bend your knees and keep your back straight when performing these tasks.
  • Arranging their work space ergonomically: If possible arrange your work space so that you can work in a comfortable and efficient manner. This includes adjusting the height of their workstations, using the right type of chair, and having enough space to move around.

How are back pain and repetitive strain injuries diagnosed?

See your medical provider if symptoms make it difficult for you to do your day-to-day activities, like your job.

Your healthcare provider will conduct a physical exam. They may ask your symptoms and if any of your daily activities increase your symptoms. Your provider may need a few imagining tests to diagnose a repetitive strain injury.

You can prevent back pain and repetitive stress injuries by following safe lifting and carrying techniques and arranging your work space ergonomically.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

No matter how tough things may seem right now, there is always help available. If you or someone you know is in distress or crisis, call #988 for immediate access to mental health services. #MHAM2023 #Together4MH

APWU Health Plan Members can get support, answers, and expert care on our website.

How To Take Your Child Off Your Health Insurance.

How Do I Take My Child Off My Health Insurance?

If your child is turning 26 soon you may want to make some insurance coverage changes.

If you want to stay in a Self and Family Health Benefits Plan, typically insuring more than two people, you do not need to take any action. Your child’s health insurance coverage continues for no charge for 31 days after their birthday. After that, they are not covered under your FEHB Health Benefits plan.

If you want to change your health insurance plan type to cover two or less people, you need to contact your payroll office. They will be able to switch your plan type for you and reduce the premiums taken from your paycheck. The APWU Health Plan is an insurance carrier and can’t make this switch for you as it impacts your  paycheck.

If your child still needs insurance coverage the Health Plan will send them a letter with instructions on how to enroll in our conversion plan insurance option. If you are not enrolled in the APWU Health Plan your child may purchase a Temporary Continuation of Coverage from your current insurer. Your child may also be eligible to  buy health insurance through the  government insurance marketplace (

You can learn more about taking your child off your Federal Employee Health Benefits plan by visiting the OPM website

Tips to reduce your risk of melanoma and protect your skin

Cancer starts when cells in the body begin to grow out of control. Melanoma is a cancer that usually begins in skin cells. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma is less common than other types of skin cancer, but it’s more likely to grow and spread. While melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer, if it’s caught and treated early, it is usually curable.

Melanoma begins in the part of the skin that makes a pigment called melanin. This pigment gives skin its tan or brown color. Melanin protects the deeper layers of the skin from some harmful effects of the sun. For most people, exposure to the sun causes the skin to make more pigment. The skin, in turn, darkens or tans.

Is it safe to tan?

Although many of us love that sun-kissed glow, the American Academy of Dermatology warns that there is no safe way to tan. In fact, when you tan you’re actually damaging your skin. Over time, the damage can speed up the aging of your skin and increase your risk for melanoma and other types of skin cancer.

What are the warning signs of melanoma?

Most moles, spots, and growths on the skin are harmless, but the Skin Cancer Foundation encourages everyone to look for the warning signs of melanoma and make an appointment with a doctor immediately if you see one or more of the signs.

A – Asymmetry Benign (or non-cancerous) moles tend to be symmetrical. If you drew a line through the middle of the mole, the two sides would be the same shape and size. Melanomas tend to be asymmetrical. If you drew a line through the mole, the two halves would not match.

B – Border Benign moles tend to have even borders, while the borders of a melanoma tend to be uneven. The edges may have notches.

C – Color Benign moles are all one color, usually a shade of brown. A mole with a range of colors may be a warning signal of melanoma. A melanoma could be various shades of brown, tan, black, red, white, or blue.

D – Diameter Benign moles are often small. Melanomas are usually larger than the eraser on a pencil, though they may start off smaller than that.

E – Evolving Benign moles tend to look the same over time. If a mole starts to change in size, shape, or color, see a doctor. The same goes for moles that bleed, itch, or become crusted.

What are the risk factors for melanoma?

While everyone is at some risk for melanoma, other factors can play a role, including the number of moles you have, your skin type, and family history. Anyone can get melanoma or another type of skin cancer, regardless of age, gender, or race.

Can using sunscreen reduce the risk of melanoma?

Sun exposure can increase your risk for developing melanoma, so it’s important to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that everyone should use sunscreen every time you go outside, year-round, even on cloudy days.

Look for a sunscreen that offers:

  • Broad-spectrum protection (against UVA and UVB rays)
  • SPF 30 or higher
  • Water resistance

Following a few tips can help protect your skin from sunburn, aging, and skin cancer:

  1. Use the recommended amount of sunscreen, which is one ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass. Adjust this amount depending on the size of your body and how much skin you need to cover.
  2. Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes before you go outside.
  3. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  4. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  5. Don’t use sunscreen that’s more than three years old. If you use the right amount of sunscreen every time you go outside, a bottle probably won’t last more than a year.

What other steps can you take to reduce the risk of melanoma?

Sunscreen alone can’t fully protect you from the harmful effects of the sun. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends following a complete sun protection regimen to protect your skin and find skin cancer early:

  1. Seek shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  2. Don’t get a sunburn. Remember that water, snow, and sand can reflect sunlight and increase your chance of sunburn.
  3. Avoid tanning. Never use a tanning bed or booth.
  4. Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a broad-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  5. Check your skin for warning signs every month.
  6. See your doctor or a board-certified dermatologist for a skin exam every year. Melanoma and other skin cancers are highly treatable when caught early.

How Do I Add My Newborn or New Child To My Health Insurance?

Congratulations on your new family member! The Health Plan cannot move you from a Self Only or Self Plus One Policy.  You have to work directly with your employer to change your insurance plan type They have to process the change as they will be  taking your share of the insurance premium out of your paycheck.

To  make the change  you will need the three digit code of the plan that you are enrolling in. The codes for the APWU Health Plans  are  on the cover of our plan brochure.  You can download our brochure from our website here.  You can request a brochure online here or by calling us directly at 1-800-222-2798.

Changes to insurance are typically made during Open Season. If you have a qualifying life event you can make changes outside of outside of the normal time frame. Your employer may require proof that you are within 60 days of your qualifying life event (such as a birth certificate, adoption paperwork, etc). When you submit the insurance change you may need to include copies of these official documents.

Employees have 60 days from their qualifying life event to change their insurance coverage. If you miss this deadline you may have to wait until the insurance Open Season to change your coverage.

You should contact your payroll office to make your insurance change as soon as possible!

Healthy Sleep Habits

Are you getting enough sleep? Sleep deficiency has been linked to many health problems, heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression.

The amount of sleep you need changes as you age. The CDC recommends that adults age 18-60  need seven or more hours of sleep per night.

You can get a better night’s sleep by making certain lifestyle adjustments.

Tips for sleeping better

  • Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet. Use light blocking curtains or earplugs to remove distractions from your bedroom.
  • Keep a set schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday
  • Keep the same sleep schedule on your days off. Limiting the difference to no more than an hour. Big changes in your sleep schedule on the weekends can disrupt your body’s clock.
  • Turn off screens (TV, phone, and computer) for one hour before bedtime. Exposure to blue light can make it difficult for you to fall and stay asleep.
  • Avoid stimulants. Stimulants are substances that can interfere with sleep. Common stimulants are nicotine and caffeine (coffee, soda, tea and chocolate). Caffeine can take up to 10 hours to completely clear from your system.

When to see a doctor

If you are still having difficulties sleeping after adopting better sleep habits you may need to seek medical advice.  Doctors can assess if you have a sleep disorder or other condition. They can also discuss possible treatment options for any sleep disorder you may have. 50-70 million Americans have sleep disorders.

Getting enough sleep can improve your mental and physical health. By following the tips above you can improve your sleep today.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Recommended colorectal cancer screenings—start earlier than you might think. Many people with early stages of colorectal cancer experience no symptoms.  This disease is preventable, treatable, and beatable. Most colorectal cancer starts as precancerous polyps, meaning that doctors can stop colorectal cancer before it starts. 

Start screening at age 45 if you are at average risk. In 2021, the U.S. Preventive Task Force (USPSTF) lowered the recommended colorectal cancer screening age from 50 to 45.  If you are at increased risk, you may need to be screened sooner or more frequently – talk with your doctor as soon as you can.

According to the American Cancer Society One in three people in the US who should get tested for this type of cancer have never been screened.

Early detection of colorectal cancer can mean Better Outcomes: more treatment options and more effective treatment.

Learn more about colorectal cancer and talk to your medical provider about the best screening option for you.

Additional source

CDC, What should I know about colorectal cancer screening?

Smoking and Heart Disease

You APWU Health Plan includes access to health management programs to help you quit tabacco. Our health management programs help protect your well-being and help you live a healthier life-all with no out-of-pocket costs in most cases.

Enroll in a Consumer Driven Option health management program by contacting UnitedHealthcare 1-800-718-1299 or log in to your member website Enroll in a High Option health management program by calling Cigna/CareAllies at 1-800-582-1314.

Consider signing up for a tobacco cessation program to help you move beyond tobacco and take control of your health.

#OurHearts are healthier when we quit smoking together
#OurHearts are healthier when we quit smoking together. Smokers are up to 4x more likely to develop heart disease or to have a stroke, compared to nonsmokers. But it pays to quit. Just 1 year after quitting, your heart attack risk drops sharply. Ask your family and friends for support or  join a support group. Tell your family, friends, and coworkers that you're quitting and you want their help. Ask them not to smoke around you. They might catch the bug too: Research has shown that people are much more likely to quit if their spouse, friend, or sibling stops smoking.

Are You Heart Smart?

What to Know for a Healthier Heart

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. One in five deaths is due to heart disease, even though the disease is largely preventable.[1]

Keeping your heart healthy starts with living a heart-healthy lifestyle. But first, you need to get smart about your heart. Knowing what causes heart disease, what puts you at risk for it, and how you can reduce those risks can help you make informed decisions to protect your heart and keep it strong.

Want to test your knowledge? Take this short Heart Smart Quiz:

Heart Smart Quiz

  1. True or False? High blood pressure is also known as hypertension and occurs when your blood pressure is consistently 130/80 mm Hg or higher.
  2. True or False? Your body mass index, or BMI, shows if your weight is in a healthy range for your height and is one measure of your future risk for heart disease.
  3. True or False? Cholesterol helps make hormones, vitamin D, and substances to help you digest foods. Your body needs it for good health, but in the right amounts.
  4. True or False? Eating lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, using fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and limiting foods high in saturated fat or sugar-sweetened beverages are all part of a heart-healthy diet.
  5. True or False? Not getting enough sleep or getting poor quality sleep on a regular basis increases the risk of having high blood pressure, heart disease, and other medical conditions.
  6. True or False? To strengthen their heart, adults should aim to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as brisk walking each week.

Answer Key: All answers are True.

How did you do? Knowing your own risk factors for heart disease can help guide your lifestyle choices, so talk to your healthcare provider to make sure you’re clear. Just as important: know your numbers. Your weight, waist size, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels all affect your heart. If they aren’t where they should be, make a pledge to begin improving them.

Adding more physical activity to your day, eating a heart-healthy diet, managing stress, getting enough quality sleep, and not smoking can put you on the path to better heart health.

Learn more about heart disease prevention from The Heart Truth® at and download the Heart Smart Basics fact sheet to improve your knowledge about heart health.


Article courtesy of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute https://www.nhlbi.nih.ov/education/american-heart-month

February is American Heart Month!

Did you know that people who have close relationships at home, work, or in their community tend to be healthier and live longer? One reason, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), is that we’re more successful at meeting our health goals when we work on them with others. NHLBI launched the #OurHearts movement to inspire us to protect and strengthen our hearts with the support of others.

Here are some facts, how-to tips, and resources to inspire you to join with others, even if you can’t be physically together, to improve your heart health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. Most middle-aged and young adults have one or more risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or being a smoker or overweight. Having multiple risk factors increases your risk for heart disease.

Why Connecting is Good for Your Heart

Feeling connected with others and having positive, close relationships benefit our overall health, including our blood pressure and weight. Having people in our lives who motivate and care for us helps, as do feelings of closeness and companionship.

Follow these heart-healthy lifestyle tips to protect your heart. It will be easier and more successful if you work on them with others, including by texting or phone calls if needed.

  • Be more physically active.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a nutritious diet.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Get 7-9 hours of quality sleep.
  • Track your heart health stats.

You don’t have to make big changes all at once. Small steps will get you where you want to go.

Move more

Invite family, friends, colleagues, or members of your community to join you in your efforts to be more physically active:

  • Ask a colleague to walk “with you” on a regular basis, put the date on both your calendars, and text or call to make sure you both get out for a walk.
  • Get a friend or family member to sign up for the same online exercise class, such as a dance class. Make it a regular date!
  • Grab your kids, put on music, and do jumping jacks, skip rope, or dance in your living room or yard.

How much is enough? Aim for at least 2½ hours of physical activity eachweek—that’s just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. In addition, do muscle strengthening exercises 2 days a week. Can’t carve out a lot of time in your day? Don’t chuck your goal, chunk it! Try doing 10 minutes of physical activity at least three times a day. NHLBI’s Move More fact sheet has ideas to get and keep you moving.

Aim for a healthy weight

Find someone in your friend group, at work, or in your family who also wants to reach or maintain a healthy weight. (If you’re overweight, even a small weight loss of 5–10 percent helps your health.) Check in with them regularly to stay motivated. Agree to do healthy activities, like walking or cooking a healthy meal, at the same time, even if you can’t be together. Share low-calorie, low-sodium recipes. Check out NHLBI’s Aim for a Healthy Weight web page.

Eat heart-healthy

We tend to eat like our friends and family, so ask others close to you to join in your effort to eat healthier. Follow NHLBI’s Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan. Research shows that, compared to a typical American diet, it lowers high blood pressure and improves cholesterol levels. Find delicious recipes at NHLBI’s Heart-Healthy Eating web page.

Quit smoking

To help you quit, ask others for support or join an online support group. Research shows that people are much more likely to quit if their spouse, friend, or sibling does. Social support online can help you quit. All states have quit lines with trained counselors—call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). You’ll find many free resources to help you quit, such as apps, a motivational text service, and a chat line at and

If you need extra motivation to quit, consider those around you: Breathing other people’s smoke, called secondhand smoke, is dangerous. Many adult nonsmokers die of stroke, heart disease, and lung cancer caused by secondhand smoke.

Manage stress

Managing stress helps your heart health. Set goals with a friend or family member to do a relaxing activity every day, like walking, yoga, or meditation, or participate in an online stress-management program together. Physical activity also helps reduce stress. Talk to a qualified mental health provider or someone else you trust.

Improve sleep

Sleeping 7–9 hours a night helps to improve heart health. De-stressing will help you sleep, as does getting a 30-minute daily dose of sunlight. Take a walk instead of a late afternoon nap! Family members and friends: remind each other to turn off the screen and stick to a regular bedtime. Instead of looking at your phone or the TV before bed, relax by listening to music, reading, or taking a bath.

Track Your Heart Health Stats, Together

Keeping a log of your blood pressure, weight goals, physical activity, and if you have diabetes, your blood sugars, will help you stay on a heart-healthy track. Ask your friends or family to join you in the effort. Check out NHLBI’s My Heart Health Tracker.

For more information about heart health, visit

Article courtesy of the National Institute of Health