Despite guidelines set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enforce safe practices by workers, Paris said with many construction workers productivity takes precedence over safe working habits.
O'Neal said he now pays the price for putting his job before his health.
"I am fortunate I endured 30 years working," O'Neal said, "[but] the pain I experience now is a living hell."
Nurse aides log the largest number of reported cases of taking days off from work due to injuries and illnesses than any other profession, according to a November 2007 report released by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Marie Paul, 45, a nurse aide who works on the rehabilitation floor of a Randolph, Mass., nursing home, is no stranger to taking time off because of her chronic back pain.
"Some days it is too much for me," Paul said. "I either cannot come in at all or have to leave work to lie down."
Five years ago, Paul was helping a patient walk from the bathroom to a chair when the patient suffered a seizure. Paul lost her balance and pinched her sciatic nerve while trying to hold the patient up.
"I was sent to the hospital right away and given light duties at work for the rest of the month to help me recover," Paul said. "But the pain has only gotten worse."
Conroy said, "That's an incredibly common occurrence. Ironically, it's in helping others that nurse aides will end up needing help for themselves."
A nurse aide's daily requirements may include bending to help patients put their shoes on, helping patients get from one place to another, transporting patients who cannot walk and adjusting patients after they have been lifted into bed.
Conroy said overweight patients contribute to most of the pain experienced by nurse aides.
"The weight epidemic that's sweeping this country is the main problem," Conroy said. "The heavier the patient is the more physically demanding for a nurse's aide to move a stretcher or hold a patient up."
Conroy added that many nurse aides bear the brunt of frustrated patients.
"Many times they are mistreated by patients who demand a lot from them," Conroy said. "When you're burnt out, you're more prone to injury."
"It doesn't matter how experienced you are," Paul said. "For 13 years, I used to be able to do everything. Once I hurt my back, that was it."
Despite wearing a back brace to work, Paul said as long as she is on her feet the pain persists.
"I wish I could just tell other nurse aides that there are ways to go back to work after an injury and not feel the pain I feel," Paul said. "But I haven't found anything."
"Prevention is the best tool to manage pain," Conroy said. "Nurse aides should take their own job description to heart and not be afraid to ask for help."
Throughout college, Cynthia Toussaint's dance teachers told her she had the body of a ballet dancer. Toussaint, who was studying performance at University of California Irvine, felt pressure to dance professionally.
"Even though I lived to perform, I wasn't sure I wanted to go professional," she said. "Dancers have really short careers because we suffer so many injuries."
Although Toussaint foreshadowed the end of her career, she allowed herself to be swept away by pirouettes and pliés.