Back to Basics: Spine Health for Nurses

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    We have learned about spine health since nursing school, but we still forget to protect our backs. Let's go back to the basics and learn about simple spine health tips.

    Back to Basics: Spine Health for Nurses

    You just finished your third twelve hour shift in a row. As you go to clock out, you hear the charge nurse singing your name and praises. This can only mean only one thing - they need help tomorrow. But, it's your day off! You mentally scan your calendar for tomorrow starting at 5am, since you will be awake anyway and there is nothing scheduled. Nothing! Quick, think! Can you take another day of this? You take a mental inventory of how you feel and there it is - back pain!! If you are going to pick up one more shift, you are really going to need to work on your back. But how?

    According to spineuniverse.com in the article, "Back Care for Nurses", nursing easily tops the list of occupations as most associated with work-related musculoskeletal disorders. In 2012, The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that nursing was in the top occupations for nonfatal occupational injuries requiring days away from work. We were joined by maintenance workers, landscapers, janitors,, nursing assistants and material movers. Musculoskeletal disorders accounted for the majority of the injuries, this includes sprains and strains. The back was the most common body part to suffer.

    Prevention

    Being a worker's compensation case manager, I can tell you from personal experience that sprains and strains run rampant in all industries where lifting, pushing, pulling and rolling are part of the daily gig. Nursing certainly falls into the mix. I have worked with many nurses to get them the care they needed following back injuries. The one thing I can't do at the point they become my client, is prevention.



    Here are the basics of spine health every nurse should know:

    Equipment

    Use Equipment When Available. Yes, it may take you a few extra steps to get the lift or the gait belt. But, isn't your back worth it? Of course it is!

    Use a gait belt when available. Make sure it fits snugly around the waist of the patient. Belts with hand straps make it easier for you to grasp comfortably. If the patient is ambulatory, but needs extra support, place the walker in front of them to help them balance. Always put the side rails up when you are rolling a patient in bed. Ask them to help support themselves by holding onto the side rail. If a Hoyer lift is available, use it.

    Make sure equipment is in good working order. This may mean reminding management to send equipment to maintenance. If you are having trouble with a piece of equipment, make sure you put in the designated spot for repairs. Don't ever take the risk of another staff member or patient being injured because you didn't take the time to put poorly functioning equipment where it needed to go.

    Staffing

    Injuries may occur during times of inadequate staffing. Let's face it, we are more likely to take shortcuts when we know everyone is busy. This is an unsafe practice. Even when staffing is low, don't risk your spine health. Wait on others to help you and certainly still use the equipment as it was intended.

    Training

    All nurses should be trained on proper body mechanics. Stand tall (both figuratively and literally) when you are being a nurse! Work on maintaining good posture. Minimize twisting, bending and lifting, when possible. If you see another nurse, especially new grads, participating in an unsafe practice, make sure you bring it to their attention in a gentle manner. Their back will thank you.

    Self-Care

    You must take care of your back, both on and off-shift. Exercise and stretching are necessities. Make exercise a priority. Activities such as walking, swimming or exercise bikes use your core muscles and strengthen your back.

    Bend at the knees and hips. We are all guilty of not following this rule. It is such an easy way to take care of your back. Be sure to carry objects close to your body to provide the support you need to carry the extra weight.

    When sitting for long periods of time, make sure you are sitting up tall. Avoid slumping over. Keep both feet flat on the floor. It is so tempting to tuck one leg up under your bum, but this can put extra stress on back muscles. And, just as you ensure your bed bound patients are turned on a schedule, do the same for your back! Change positions every few minutes.

    Consider quitting smoking. Smoking decreases the blood flow to our body, in particular to the discs. The lack of blood flow can lead to disc degeneration.

    What other spine health tips do you use as a nurse? Have you ever suffered a back injury at work? If so, what do you do differently now to stay say? Let's talk spine health!
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    3 Comments

  3. by   amoLucia
    I am not intending to hi-jack the thread, but you omitted weight loss.

    With significant weight loss, posture changes, gait changes, stance changes. Loss of some abdominal girth can make a difference.

    Aside from all the other known benefits of weight loss, ortho/neuro/muscular improvement can occur which impacts improving back status. Those who've experienced other chronic conditions, like DJD,DDD, OA, etc know that practitioners will recommend weight loss if nec.

    To OP - I'm thinking you must have just missed typing that part of your manuscript.
  4. by   melissa.mills1117
    Quote from amoLucia
    I am not intending to hi-jack the thread, but you omitted weight loss.

    With significant weight loss, posture changes, gait changes, stance changes. Loss of some abdominal girth can make a difference.

    Aside from all the other known benefits of weight loss, ortho/neuro/muscular improvement can occur which impacts improving back status. Those who've experienced other chronic conditions, like DJD,DDD, OA, etc know that practitioners will recommend weight loss if nec.

    To OP - I'm thinking you must have just missed typing that part of your manuscript.
    No worries about hijacking the post! I am glad that you read it and thought of something new. My goal with my writing is to challenge others to think of new things and even outside the box at times. Mission accomplished!

    And, you are correct. Weight loss should have been on the list too! Thanks for keeping me in check. ~Melissa
  5. by   malenurse69
    Spine health tip: avoid bedside nursing

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