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Prevention of Low Back Pain in Nurses

What is the saying – “prevention is better than cure”?

A study reported that nurses who had not received any education on low back pain, who remained standing for long periods of time, who performed interventions that required bending forward, who lifted and repositioned patients, and who did not use any aiding equipment during interventions, experienced more pain and had higher average pain scores. 

It seems here that education and understanding are crucial.

Low back pain can often be prevented if we take the time to be aware of how we are using, or one might say abusing, our bodies. Maintaining a well-balanced emotional and physical life by not gaining excessive weight, not smoking, following healthy diet and exercise habits are also effective in protecting low back health.

8 tips to prevent low back pain:

Whilst this advice has been tailored towards nurses, we can all apply it to our own work and life.

1. Get enough sleep

Sleep deprivation is a common consequence of the 12-hour shift. There is rapidly accumulating evidence to indicate that chronic partial sleep loss may increase the risk of obesity and diabetes.6

Multiple epidemiologic studies have shown an association between short sleep and higher body mass index.6

National Sleep Foundation guidelines advise that healthy adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.7 If it isn’t possible to acquire the needed hours of sleep, focus on choosing foods with high dietary fiber and lower carbohydrate content.

2. Start your day the healthy way

A healthy breakfast for nurses is important in fuelling up on energy to start the day right. Even if your daily routine is always hectic, don’t let it be an excuse in skipping breakfast. Eating a high-protein breakfast has also been linked to a reduced urge to consume calorie-dense foods, improved attention span, and increased energy for physical activity.

3. Take regular exercise

Exercise to strengthen the support of your back muscles which will prevent and reduce back pain. Some exercise routines you can follow to strengthen back muscles include back extensions, knee rolls and bottom to heels stretch. Doing Pilates or yoga is also beneficial in reducing the risk of back pain.

Below are some of the best exercise routines to help boost your flexibility, strength and endurance, as well as prevent back injury:

· DEEP   BREATHING reduces stress  and helps you  calm down  and  relax. It will also increase energy while decreasing tension.

· PLANKING usually done for 15 seconds, 30 seconds, a minute or more, will help strengthen your core.

· SQUATS   strengthen not only your legs, but also your whole body. It even increases your flexibility. By increasing strength on your knees and hips, it will also reduce your chance of injury.

· CALF RAISES this simple exercise not only increases your strength, but also your flexibility, especially in your calves.

· LUNGES strengthening your legs and back by using your body weight is one of the main objectives of this exercise.

· HAMSTRING CURLS as a nurse, you have to take care of your legs by doing exercises that will strengthen them.

· PLIÉ SQUAT to ensure your lower body gets enough exercise, you need to try this ballet-inspired routine.

· SEATED BUTT CLENCHES this very simple exercise helps strengthen your buttocks as well as your core muscles.

· SHOULDER SHRUGS this exercise actually helps develop the muscles in your upper extremities and is usually done with the help of a dumbbell or a barbell.

· STRETCHING start and end every activity with some stretching exercises. This will prepare your joints and muscles for the day ahead.

4. Stay hydrated

If you don’t drink sufficient fluids, you may experience signs and symptoms of dehydration, including light-headedness, dizziness, or nausea.

Contrary to widespread belief, caffeinated beverages contribute to daily fluid needs and aren’t dehydrating for a person who consumes caffeine routinely.

5. Be a healthy weight

When you are overweight, the extra pounds shift the centre of gravity of your body. As a result, more pressure can be felt in the lower back area and this can lead to back pain.

Losing weight or maintaining a good shape is definitely a big challenge for a busy nurse. Finding time to balance work and exercise can be hard but you can incorporate a few easy workout routines into your daily hospital shift. The tips below you can even do whilst on the way or at work.

· MAKE YOUR DAILY COMMUTE A WORKOUT Instead of taking the car, why not walk, cycle, or run. If you live miles away and still need to drive, try parking farther away from the car park and walk the remaining distance.

· DO A VARIETY OF BODY MOVEMENTS Take the stairs instead of the lift. Sprint or walk briskly between buildings. Do some squats in the break room or stretch if you’ve been sitting for a long time. Use a variation of movements to help you stay energised.

· COUNT YOUR STEPS An appropriate goal for weight maintenance is 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) per day. A goal for a healthy heart would be 3,000 steps in 30 minutes at least 5 days a week.

6. Don’t skip meals

Keep a supply of healthy pre-packaged meal replacements in your break room. Even if you can’t take a real lunch break, at least you will have something good to fall back on.

Below are some super snacks you could try to keep you energised and healthy at the same time.

NUTS Most nuts contain tryptophan, vitamin E and magnesium which naturally give you energy. They are also a good source of unsaturated fats that will help you stay alert and your mind sharp and keen.

YOGURT Aside from containing probiotics that can help promote good digestion, yogurt also contains amino acids that can relieve fatigue. Fat-free or low-fat yogurt may also give you more protein than regular yogurt.

CHEESE contains the amino acid tyramine which stimulates the brain to produce certain chemicals that will keep you alert and energetic. Try using healthier varieties like feta, string cheese, parmesan or cottage cheese.

CHOCOLATE Aside from caffeine, chocolate also contains tyrosine which is converted to dopamine when consumed. Dopamine is a stimulant that can cause increased energy levels and alertness.

GINSENG TEA acts as a stimulant, giving you enough energy to survive your shift. It tastes good and contains lots of anti-oxidants too.

FRUITS The natural sugars that fruits contain are known to help boost our energy levels. Fruits such as apples and bananas contain a lot of vitamins and nutrients such as B-vitamins, vitamin C, potassium, fructose and fibre. Oranges and other citrus fruits which are rich in Vitamin C will give you energy and help burn fat at the same time.

SOY products that have been fermented, like tofu and miso, contain a very high amount of tyramine, which may increase levels of alertness and energy. You can also use soy or teriyaki sauce in preparing your meals, or drink chilled soy milk which is usually available in supermarkets sweetened and ready to drink.

7. Wear suitable shoes

Moving around a lot at work and having to be on duty for long hours mean it is important to have the right kind of shoes. Choose a low-heeled and non-slip closed shoe with a well-cushioned sole. A good pair of shoes will help in preventing painful heels, legs and back during and after duty.

Good arch support will also add more comfort when you’re walking or running around on a busy shift.

8. Practice proper body mechanics

Body mechanics refers to the way you hold your body when you move around. Proper body mechanics help you avoid muscle fatigue and injuries as you walk, bend over, lift objects, or perform other activities of daily living. Think of body mechanics as good posture in motion.

Remembering to use proper body mechanics in all of your daily activities can reduce the risk of back pain and other occupational-related injuries that can be encountered at work.

It is easy to practice proper body mechanics when you follow three simple guidelines:

1. Stand with your feet apart to create a sturdy foundation.

2. Bend at your knees instead of your waist.

3. Keep your neck, back, hips, and feet aligned when you move; avoid twisting and bending at the waist.

I would add that if you are in pain, do not suffer in silence, hoping that it will go away in a few weeks or months. We, and you know if you suffer from it, that chronic pain is much more difficult to treat.  Seek advice and support as soon as you can.

Information in this article was provided by BackCare.org.uk.