90% of nurses experience low back pain
70% of nurses experience recurrent low back pain
Our spines are very fragile and susceptible to frequent and recurrent injuries. My spine is especially fragile because I played a lot of sports in my youth and really pushed my body to the limit not thinking about long-term repercussions. So when I started nursing I am sure there was an in-service on how to prevent injuries, but I don’t remember. I began my nursing career thinking I was a superwoman. In my second year of nursing, I lifted a patient, and the next day I was in so much low back pain I couldn’t move.
Let’s review some tips that could help prevent a lower back injury from happening to you.
1. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
It may sound simple but maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not simple unless you get into a workable routine. Set an exercise schedule, strengthen your core, and avoid harmful behaviors such as smoking, excessive alcohol, and over-eating. Next sleep at least 6 hours per day. Lastly, prioritize self-care. Self-care activities may include reading, taking time for yourself, and setting boundaries.
2. Assess the Situation
Each encounter, where lifting is involved, needs to be assessed carefully before you jump in. If I had assessed the situation correctly I could have prevented the incident altogether.
· Is the item too heavy for you to lift?
It is safer to push but lifting something greater than one-third to half your weight is not a good idea.
· Are their lifting aides available such as a Hoyer lift?
· Is there a policy for the facility on how to handle patients that fall?
· Did you activate the protocol?
· Did you notify the supervisor?
As I reflect back on this incident I could have done so many things differently.
3. Use Proper Ergonomics
Now that you are going to avoid lifting people and items that are too heavy for you. Let’s talk about how to lift those items that are in your wheelhouse. I am sure you have heard lift with your knees but let’s take that a bit further. There are other things you need to know about lifting.
· Have your feet firmly planted on the ground.
· Bend your knees.
· Do not twist.
· Have a good grasp on the item.
· lift it slowly.
4. Oh No You Hurt your Back
Unfortunately you may get injured while on the job taking care of patients. The first thing you must do is notify your manager as soon as possible. Follow your manager's instructions to report the incident. Get to the employee health department and checked out as soon as possible and lastly rest and heal. As quickly as you are injured unfortunately it can take a while to heal.
Once you have healed try to avoid those situations from happening again. Of course, there are situations that are unavoidable such as a fall or patient assault but lifting something or pulling something too heavy is in our control.
I hope this helps you avoid an injury wherever you are in your nursing career.
Feel free to comment with your back pain or prevention behaviors.