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Back Pain Prevention and Management for Nurses

Back Pain Prevention and Management for Nurses - El Paso Chiropractor
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Nurses nowadays encounter the common question on how they can prevent or even manage lower back pain. In fact, back complications are one of the most reported occupational health complications for nurses, especially through their retirement years. Many healthcare workers resort to self-medicating with over-the-counter pain relievers but, while these may offer relief from their symptoms, the effects are only temporary. Through several lifestyle changes, many nurses could achieve long-term relief from their lower back pain by managing their symptoms and prevent further low back complications.

First, stretching and exercising regularly should be fundamental for a nurse. Staying in a single position for long periods of time, as it’s usual in the healthcare workplace, can place an unequal amount of pressure on the muscles, resulting in muscle weakness and uneven distribution of weight. Stretching frequently on the job can help loosen up tight muscles and temporarily relieve back pain. Then, following a series of stretches with exercise can help regulate and further reduce back pain because it strengthens the structures supporting the back muscles. Engaging in strength training exercises can help keep low back pain away longer. Additionally, stretching and exercising the body enough before symptoms of back pain appear in the fist place can also help prevent back complications from developing.

Strength training exercises, such as body squats, can build boost stability as well as strengthen the entire body. Pilates are also beneficial types of exercises because these specifically focus on increasing both flexibility and strength.

Moreover, eating a healthy diet is crucial for nurses to prevent and manage low back pain. Due to the heavy demand of the job, it’s usually difficult for many nurses to follow a balanced, nutritional diet. Skipping meals, overloading with caffeine, or simply eating fast food meals when there’s little time between shifts, these improper eating habits can contribute to weight gain. Without sufficiently meeting the body’s nutritional needs, a lack of essential minerals in their diet like calcium and potassium can increase the risk of lower back complications. When the body is carrying a little more pounds than it should, the extra weight can add more pressure on the lower back area, leading to back strains and its well-known symptoms.

Then, nurses should practice proper posture while on the workplace to avoid back complications. Lifting and transferring patients are some of the most common reasons why nurses develop work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Although specific body mechanic techniques are practiced by many nurses, on the rush of a busy workday, the spine can be overexerted and may eventually lead to damage or injury on the spine. Aside from this, sitting improperly for extended periods of time, reaching over in awkward positions, and standing for an even longer period of hours, can likewise place additional stress on the muscles and other tissues surrounding the spine.

While these type of tasks are almost inevitable in a nurse’s line of work, being mindful of your posture and correcting it from time to time can help greatly. Throughout your day, take note of your posture in the reflection of a mirror. When standing up, the spine should be aligned with the hips and the stomach should be tucked in. When seated, try to keep your back straight and evenly distribute your weight on both hips. While working also, make sure to avoid abrupt changes in your position and remember to utilize proper body mechanics to prevent back strains.  

And finally, because nurse occupations, and often other healthcare workplace occupations, require people to be constantly up on their feel, its essential to invest in proper footwear. Nurse’s shoes tend to be lighter than any other types of shoes. A majority of them are made with specially designed materials to protect the individual’s feet, particularly from spills. There are even some types of nurses’ shoes that have a unique set of soles to help with balance in order to avoid slips and falls throughout a heavy work shift.

Many healthcare workers use other types of shoes at work but the level of comfort and protection nurses’ shoes offer, including the proper arch support and quality of the materials used, can help increase an individual’s productivity at work by improving posture further and ultimately preventing and/or managing low back pain and other symptoms.

By Dr. Alex Jimenez

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