3 Tips to Ensure Your Back Outlasts Your Nursing Career
Nurses, carers, aged care and group home workers are legends. Their patience, love, commitment, dedication, time and energy they give to their patients and clients is outstanding, and we just want to honour them. We know that they don't get reimbursed for the love they give people. And we definitely would not be the same community that we are without them.
Despite the love that they give, we know that physically their job takes a toll on their body. Most people think that problems with your health (in particular your back) happen because of one off incidences. Typically, most of the time that's not the case. An injury may have occurred years ago for instance in nursing when there weren't any manual lifting policies in place and you had to try to lift patients double your body weight. We know that there are policies in place now to ensure you lift properly and the least amount of weight possible, however we know that despite this, injuries still happen. And happen way too often.
The reason we know this is because we see nurses and carers every week who present to the office with injured and terrible backs of all ages. So, how does this happen?
Well, it can be from a one-off incident, (like previously mentioned) but more commonly it is from those daily repetitive actions such as trying to turn a patient or help them to their feet, plus a million other little things that they do daily to assist clients.
From our experience, we have found that a nurse or carer who has been in the industry for approximately 5 plus years it’s not just one thing that's triggered the back pain, their back problem, it’s the repetitious movements that cause the most damage. The consistent leaning, turning, lifting, bending and being on their feet all day, every day, is what adds up to hurt their spines.
So, we would love to help, not just now, but also prevent our carers from having these problems later in their careers and in their perrsonal life. We know that we only get one back, and most carers have probably seen first-hand the result of not caring for your back properly… those people aren’t faring so well. You may be asking yourself “how can I prevent a bad back as a nurse?” Keep reading as we break it down and give you our top three tips to ensure your back outlasts your career.
Tip 1: Lunge
Lunges are incredible for strength training. To help sculpt and tone your body, and improve your fitness. They are also great for strengthening your back, improving mobility in your hips and stretching your legs. However, the benefits of performing lunges aren't limited to just that. They can help with weight loss, alignment for symmetry, holding your chiropractic adjustments, balance, stability and they'll generally help you stand more upright.
You may be aware there are so many different types of lunges; stationary, moving, sideways, reversve, twist, and weighted. To find out more about each one simply look them up on Youtube. Something that we teach our patients that has been super helpful, is if they want to pick up something off the ground, they aren’t limited to just doing a squat to protect their back they can lunge down to pick it up.
Next time you go to pick something up from the ground, try a lunge which is going to protect your low back and work your legs at the same time. (Don’t forget to alternate sides when your're lunging too.) For example if you need to help a patient or client with their shoes, lunge down to do help them. This is something that we've taught our clients over the years, especially those with problematic backs or those who have had spinal surgery or even those with particularly bad knees that find squatting very difficult. Lunging is not only gentler on the knees but will assist in helping your low back in the long term as well.
Tip 2: Decompress
It’s no secret that nurses and carers spend all day, almost every day on their feet. From extended shifts, to cleaning, and running back and forth between patients and doctors you would most likely finish the day with aching feet and/or a sore back. Moving about is great (much better than being sedentary all day,) but what it's not good is the compressive effect that accumulates, hour after hour, week after week, year after year in your low back when you have been on your feet constantly.
Your low back is made up of five vertebra called your lumbar vertebra. Between each vertebra is a disc together which they collectively form a curve in your low back called a lordosis. When you're on your feet all day, those discs become compressed, and you start to lose that lumbar lordosis which acts as a spring to help you dissipate stresses and forces. Those forces can simply be the pressure of your body weight on your lower back or (for example) from bending to lift a patient.
The longer you're on your feet, then you will slowly cause those discs to become compressed, and it can also cause misalignment of the spinal bones. A super simple activity or exercise you can do to reduce this compression is to elevate or put your feet up any chance you can. Whether it’s while you’re having a cuppa, at lunch or watching TV at home. Try finding a stool or pillow to elevate your legs. By elevating your feet you’re going to take that pressure off your low back bones, off the discs, and off the nerves. This is going to help for longevity of your back not just throughout your day, but also throughout your career.
Tip 3: Get it checked
When you look in the mirror in the morning, it might spark you to do your hair or brush your teeth. It’s usually something we are in the habit of doing every single day. Why? Because we can visually see if these need attention and will book into to see the dentist or hairdresser. Not to mention your dentist or hairdresser have done a great job educating us about tooth decay and hair maintenance. However, if we think about the health of our spine, one of the reasons we don't look after it well is we don't see it in the mirror every day. If we did, some of us would be very shocked.
Did you know pain is actually a really poor indicator of the health of your spine? Unfortunately, pain is often the last thing to come if you have a spinal problem, and it's often the first thing to go. So even if you aren't in pain, our recommendation is to have your spine checked. It's much easier correcting a small problem than waiting until you're in a health crisis when now you have to try to fix an even larger problem.
Most nurses or carers would have witnessed this with their own patients that are on chronic pain medication (prescription or over the counter). It's likely they have seen the effects this medication has had on them. We want to prevent this from happening to our Carers too.
It’s super simple, easy and quick to have your spine checked at House of Chiropractic. We're located at 444 David Street, Albury (opposite KFC) and we would love to see you in the practice. This check-up could mean the difference between you enjoying your career or struggling through because you can't do what you want or need to do each day.
Give our friendly team a call today on (02) 6009 0999. Happy lunging and putting your feet up 😊