With all the lifting, stretching, standing, pulling, pushing, running, and turning nurses do during a typical shift, it’s no wonder so many of them complain of back pain.
One of the most essential and yet often poorly treated and supported parts of the body, nurses expect a lot from their backs. But it’s also a body part that’s used for nearly every action you make. Keeping it healthy should be a top priority.
According to the American Family Physician, chronic back pain is common. About 30 percent of the adult population reported at least one day of low back pain in the past three months. But the American Nurses Association puts that number at more than 50 percent when the people reporting pain are nurses. And 12 percent of nurses report leaving the profession due to back pain.
If you’ve ever hurt your back, you know you’ll do almost anything to avoid triggering what is often a debilitating pain again. Preventing back pain isn’t always possible, but there are lots of ways you can help keep it at bay.
1. Stay Strong
If you want your back to be strong, strengthen your core muscles. The stronger your stomach and side muscles are, the more support your back will get. Exercises like yoga, strength training, swimming, boxing, and Pilates all help, but so do everyday actions. When you’re sitting or standing, keep your back as upright and straight as possible. Don’t slouch at the computer and don’t let your shoulders roll when you’re standing. Keep your back aligned as much as you can. You’ll probably feel better just from those small adjustments, too.
2. Be Aware
If you’re aware of how your back is being positioned, you’ll have more opportunity to move it in a way to prevent injury or strain. When you have to pick up a heavy weight, use your leg muscles, not your back muscles. Get help to move a patient or if that’s not possible, see if you can use an assistive device to move someone. Be aware of how you are pushing or pulling people and equipment throughout the day so you are engaging the right muscles and not putting undue strain on the wrong ones.
3. Get Help
If your pain is constant and chronic, you need an accurate diagnosis to uncover the root cause of the pain. Back pain is complex and can involve lots of other body mechanics. Once you find out the cause, there are many treatments available including physical therapy, gentle exercise, or even acupuncture. Your physician might prescribe medication or surgery as well, but hopefully you can prevent your back from deteriorating to that point.