You may feel like your back injury happened suddenly, but is that really true? While certain events definitely can lead to instant injuries — such as getting into a car accident — the reality is that a lot of back ailments are the result of cumulative damage. Over time, putting a little strain on your back every day finally causes it to give out.

For instance, maybe you have to do heavy lifting at work. No one gives you any instructions. No one gives you any training. They certainly do not give you a back brace, a lifting belt or any other protective gear.

The first time you have to make the lift, while it’s hard, you get it done. You bend at the waist, pick the item up and then straighten up. You feel the stress in your back, but the lift seems to work and everyone goes on with their day.

The problem is that you’re lifting wrong. You should be crouching down and lifting with your legs, keeping your back as straight as possible. But you don’t know that because you never got any training, and the fact that you did it once makes you think that you’re not pushing your body to the limit.

How long can you keep it up? For a week? For a month? Eventually, if you keep lifting like that and nothing changes, the odds are very good that you are going to seriously injure yourself. You may wonder why your back gave out that day when it seemed fine on all the days leading up to it, but the truth is that you have slowly been hurting your back every day on the job. That day just put you over the edge.

If you suffer an injury like this at work, perhaps due to repetitive motion, make sure you know what legal rights you have to compensation.