Back pain. Among nurses, it’s at least enemy #3, if not #2 or even #1. What’s worse, nurses don’t exactly have the luxury of slowing down, which is why it’s so imperative that nurses suffering from back pain strengthen their defenses.
Tired of avoiding the lower shelf like the plague, but not entirely sure where to start? We have some ideas.
1. When you can sleep, do it right.
Nurses do some seriously heavy lifting, both literally and metaphorically, and those 12-hour shifts can be tough on the body. That’s why when you do have an opportunity to get some rest, as limited as it may be, you definitely want to make sure your sleep style isn’t cramping your work style by contributing to your back pain.
To start, you’re going to want to take that mattress of yours to task with an honest assessment. Is it really providing the support you need? If not, it could be disrupting your spinal structure and causing muscle strain—which is so not something you need. In other words? On to the next one (or at least a solid topper).
Now—let’s talk sleeping positions. Pay close attention if this is you:
If you tend to sleep on your stomach, you’re causing your neck and head to twist to the side while you snooze, which is not something your back likes very much.
If you’re battling back pain, try sleeping on your back with a pillow positioned underneath the knees, or on your side with a pillow placed between them. This should help your spine maintain a neutral position throughout the night (or whenever it is you actually sleep).
2. Get moving.
Okay, so we admit that this sounds counterproductive, but a stronger core and flexible, active muscles can serve to alleviate back pain.
Depending upon the severity of your back pain, anything from daily activity to aquatic exercises may help stave off those “can’t really move that way” moments. Focus on activities that emphasize strengthening, stretching and low-impact conditioning. Other options? Physical therapy, swimming, biking, yoga (though some positions may prove more beneficial than others)—even a simple morning or afternoon walk can get those muscles going.
Keep in mind that the advantages of a more active lifestyle are twofold, since a healthy weight will ease the strain on your back.
3. Allow yourself time to relax, too.
Many studies link back pain to chronic or acute pain. And go figure—nurses have more than enough of that.
That’s why it’s doubly important for you to make your mental and emotional health a priority, whether that be a hobby, routine happy hours, meditation or simply talking.
4. Pay attention to your posture.
The good news? Sitting at a computer all day, hunched over the keyboard, is one thing many nurses don’t have to worry about. The bad news? That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always be aware of your posture.
Avoid slumping during your commute, when you’re charting, lunching or simply standing. The straighter your back, the less it will send you angry messages in the form of aggravation later. That goes for when you’re carrying your work bag to and fro, too. We know you’ve got an item count only Mary Poppins can rival in there—whittle it down to the bare, nursey minimum and try to keep the weight distributed as evenly as possible, alternating shoulders on the daily if you’re decidedly the tote-bag type.
5. Spoil yourself a little bit.
A warm bath, a professional massage and a warm cup of tea…these are all pleasant, appealing ideas, no?
Luckily, these are a few things that can actually alleviate your back pain, too. Allow us to explain: The heat from a warm bath helps ease tense muscles; massage therapy can reduce lower back pain while developing range of motion and flexibility; and the ginger, cardamon, cinnamon or cloves found in many herbal teas will work to reduce inflammation.
Did we just merge the perfect day with a practical purpose? We think so.
Oh, and if you’ve got a tip of your own, please share it with your fellow nurses in the comments section below!
This article was republished with permission from SCRUBS Magazine.