Nurses and Back Pain Prevention

“Help! My back hurts from standing all day for a 12 hour shift. When I get a chance to sit down for a moment or two it feels good to sit, but if I bend over my back really hurts. I guess I’m not used to standing for such long periods. Does it get any better as time goes by? Could it be due to bad posture? Maybe my shoes are all wrong? I don’t know what to do. Any answers?” Nurse in pain.

Did you know that statistics have shown approximately 80% of adults are expected to experience back injuries in their lifetime with 10% having reoccurring injuries to their back? As a nurse it can be troubling to be a part of this 80% group or to have an existing problem and wondering what to do if a patient falls while you are on duty. I am centering on nurses because it seems the medical profession has more incidents of back injuries than other heavy lifting careers.

Nurses offer care and comfort to others, but they often end up with a pain in the back for their efforts, the results of a new study show. We all have experienced some form of back pain at least once as an adult, but there are others who suffer from back pain daily. Most people don’t realize that the way they move, sit or stand can affect their back causing minor or serious damage. Most individuals that suffer low back pain carry on with their normal activities after a few days, but in about seven per cent of cases, the pain persists and worsens, limiting daily activity and work. About 70 per cent of worker compensation costs are generated by the cases in which the absence from work lasts six months or longer. So, the best thing for everyone is to prevent disabilities, and the best way to do this is to prevent causation of the injuries. Take a look at some tips:

The top 6 medical professionals at the greatest risk for back injury are:

* Nurses Aides/Assistants

* Licensed Practical Nurses

* Registered Nurses

* Home Health Aides

* Radiology Technicians

* Physical Therapists

Most often nurses hurt their backs while turning bed ridden patients or while performing patient transfers from the bed to chairs or stretchers. Since nurses often work 12 hour shifts, the amount of standing, lifting, and bending can take a toll on their backs.

What can you do to prevent back pain or injuries from over-exertion? There are some simple changes you can make to save your back and keep you on the job pain free.

1. Proper lifting techniques-use your knees and your legs not your back when doing any kind of lifting, keep your back straight, and keep the load close to your body,. These are good principles. Also when you are about to lift or transfer your patient, don’t try to do it alone ask for help. Doing it or without the help of transfer boards and other individuals to assist is an the number one reason why medical professionals have back injuries today. Make use of the mechanical lifts and learn how to use it properly. Not knowing how to use the lift can cause injury to your patient or you. Attend the in-service offered by your facility.Practice using the lift until you feel comfortable using it.

2. Wear comfortable, supportive shoes-shoes with shock absorbing material will help to prevent jarring of the back upon walking or standing for long periods.

3. Maintain a healthy body weight- Stay in shape, eat a healthy diet, do strengthening exercises so you can stay flexible. Work those muscles- learn trunk stability exercises that could help prevent injuries to your back.

4. As a nurse be your own best advocate, Seek employers that offer the technology and training necessary to decrease the risk of an on-the-job injury. Talk with your ergonomics specialist and request an evaluation of your nursing environment and ask what adjustments need to be made to lower the risk of staff experiencing back injuries.

Nurses we can raise awareness of this problem by examining ways of improving working conditions. We need to educate our nurses about how to reduce the number of work-related low back pain injuries, because right now the cases of back injuries have become way too high.

Barbara Lucore

I have been a nurse for 15+ years and as a nurse I understand how to prevent back strain and pain. The correct ways to lift objects, the causes of back pain, treatments available, the exercises to reduce or prevent back pain and the proper ways to move without strain or injury to your back.