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Back Pain and nursing

Kasey77 Kasey77 (New) New


I really need some constructive advice. Have been following some of these threads and really do appreciate how genuine everyone is on here.

I am a 52 year old woman. I have been going to school to get a BSN. I have 4 classes to go until I can apply for nursing school.

I have 2 herniated discs and chronic pain. I have been taking care of my parents for years in every capacity. I want a secure job I can do until I can't work anymore.

My thinking is to just get through nursing school and I will make my way. I can not lift. I can not sit or stand long. I seem to have to rotate. So a complete sitting job will not work either. I thought even if I worked 25 hours a week, this would be more than I would make doing some other menial job.

I am very scared and not knowing which direction to take.

Any comments I would appreciate.


Specializes in onc, M/S, hospice, nursing informatics. Has 11 years experience.

I am almost 50 and have been a nurse for 8 years. I have had back pain for 30 years. I take my pain pills when I have to, because they do not impair me in any way. When I get home, I take stronger pills because the pain is so bad I can't sleep sometimes. However, I can still perform all aspects of my job with little limitations. I do med/surg, three 12-hour nights per week.

If you can get through nursing school, you can make it just fine, because there are plenty of jobs that are somewhere in the middle of long hours on your feet and sitting all day.

I say go for your dream. You'll always wonder if you don't. Good luck.


Specializes in LTC, Memory loss, PDN. Has 23 years experience.

I'm sorry to hear about your back. One way to squeeze out a silver lining would be to have patients benefit from your suffering. Are there any pain clinics in your area? As we all know, chronic pain is quite different from acute pain and with the pain perception so heavily influenced by expectations, try as I may, I cannot possibly claim to fully understand what it's like to have chronic pain. I believe your patients would benefit greatly from your unfortunate experiences. Another thought is visiting nurse. You wouldn't have to spend much time sitting, standing or performing repetitive tasks.

tewdles, RN

Specializes in PICU, NICU, L&D, Public Health, Hospice. Has 31 years experience.

Try to tough it out. Think about home care or hospice...you will have greater control over your daily schedule...AND...you will get a really good variety of sitting for a short period, walking, and then variations of position while visiting. You are rarely in a position to have to "man-handle" heavy patients in these career paths. Assessment positions are sometimes a bit challenging, particularly in hospice, but I manage with my chronic back pain. Sometimes I sit on the floor to complete a floor exam, getting up is often worth a chuckle. Acute hospital nursing can be a very physically demanding job. Stay away from places where you will have to deal with patients who will not be able to bear their own weight. Ultimately, if you want to be a nurse and are smart enough to market yourself, you will likely be able to find a job. (Some of us baby boomers will start retiring soon, making room for the new nurses)

I am weeping right now! God Bless you both for the support and encouragement. I am going to go for it. And thank the 2 of you along the way.



Has 4 years experience.


I too suffer from backpain (due to two compression fractures in two separate vertebrae). It got to the point where I couldn't sit for longer than 15 minutes at a time and my glutes would burn with pain. I'm in nursing school as well and began REALLY taxing my back when I started clinicals. In July, I bit the bullet and started going to a chiropractor.

At first I was skeptical (I've heard them described as quacks) but it has made a world of difference! I can sit through class now (2 hours) and complete my rotations with little to no pain. I've also heard recently of the dramatic success of acupuncture with back pain (I actually did a research paper on back pain and there is good evidence of this). I've yet to explore acupuncture because the chiropractor visits were so successful.

Good luck!


Specializes in Med/surg, telemetry, ICU. Has 2 years experience.

I am sorry to hear about your back pain. I hope you will find treatments that help. Re. nursing with back pain, have you familiarized yourself with your BSN program requirements? The nsg program I graduated from (2 yrs ago) required to undergo complete physical prior to starting and we were told that we had to be able to lift and move pts, or we didn't qualify. Now that I think about it, I am not sure if that is even legal, to exclude someone due to disability?

At our hospital we are not supposed to be lifting/moving anything over 35lb without assistive equipment, i.e. hovermat, hoyer lift, ceiling lift or sliding board. In real life, we don't usually take time to get the equipment, and just move people with drawsheets. I am sure our backs will pay for it later:eek:

i also suffer from back pain. I sprained this several years ago, and i lifted 1 patient which started the back pain allll over again. I"m seriously considering going into Pediatric, NICU, mother baby, nursery to avoid the heavy lifting. Have you thought about those fields? just a thought..

have you though about specialities such as Labor and delivery..,nursery,peds or psych,also you can work in the clinic,doc office,community health,navy,schooling...I mean dont give up your passion and dreams!!

Hmmm Back Pain -

I graduated nursing school when I was 54!

I am now caring for my mom - memory issues...

Constructive possibly, what one wants to hear possiby not...

This is my truth, full of pain, dissapointment, anger and fear

I did not want to be where I am at my age..

I worked with flare ups of excruciating knee or hip pain for 3 years..I lost my first job in a hospital due to several factors, one being the left knee pain and lessened mobiity.

That was heartbreaking. I worked 2 years in ltc with L hip or L knee pain increasing in frequency and intensity. Pain was also in the L butt.

Each visit to orthopedic - mri of hip or knee - nothing there lets try PT...blah blah

No one thought out of the box and looked at the back..DUH...pain became so bad = unable to work April 23rd 2009.

Yup Spinal stenosis and a big old herniated extruding disc wrapped around the spine and just slamming my nerves = radiating NERVE PAIN into L leg.

Took 5 months to get surgery = had to jump through the insurance hoops ..PT epidurals, accupuncture (nada)

chiropractor (hmmm he saw my mri and should have discontinued treatment asap as it was useless re: mri - he kept right on treating me...) $$$$

epidurals were unnecessary rt mri diagnosis $$$ for orthos - they actually dumped me when I refused the 3rd epidural!

My PT was my hero he taught me how to hande the pain...

Yoga made my heart, head and body strong I cannot do yoga for a year and I miss it...

I am 2 months Post neuro surgery -L2 - L5 laminectomy bone fusion 2 levels etc - still have leg pain nerves take a long time to heal and I hope they do as they are severly damaged with long term compression.

GET a MRI of your back - Protect your back and your future

GET treatment before you enter school

stregthen your core

I am still on disability and thinking about school again uuggghh

I think I would be great in pain management rt my experience with unmanagable pain and general lack of understanding of how to treat pain and prejudice towards use of narcotics and undertreating pain...

I may have to pick up my abandoned library career hopefully medical library environment. Research was a goal...

It is kinda hard to grasp the concept of more school as my nursing experience was

I worry and I am scared...


sorry but I did not experience much kindness or understanding or support as I tried to work in pain I had a job to do there were expectations...

tewdles, RN

Specializes in PICU, NICU, L&D, Public Health, Hospice. Has 31 years experience.

have you though about specialities such as Labor and delivery..,nursery,peds or psych,also you can work in the clinic,doc office,community health,navy,schooling...I mean dont give up your passion and dreams!!

I would caution a nurse with known back pain about working in L&D. There are too many situations in that area where the physicality of the nursing is "back breaking". Think in terms of gravid women who may be unable to move or position themselves appropriately because of an epidural, etc. L&D was actually the area that I first strained my back as a nurse in my early 30's...trying to move a bed quickly for an emergency CS.

whe think is really sad this situation , but we think you can make it...patience and good luck.... and keep with treatment to pacify the pain ...

kisses from chile

Have you been to physical therapy or a pain clinic? I'm actually in the same boat as you...I'm in my final semester of nursing school, and recently found out my back problem worsened from just one herniated disc, to 3, and progressed to spinal stenosis as well. Up until recently, I couldn't stand for more than 5 minutes (I can walk longer), without my back swelling, and then hardly being able to walk. I'm only 29, and was getting to the point of having excruciating neurogenic pain from this. Through therapy I've learned proper body mechanics (actually, rotating is usually not recommended with lower back issues, or twisting, they told me it's better to move your whole body around), I really had to re-teach myself how I needed to move. Out here in California, at my clinical sites, they either have lift sheets, hoyer lifts, or you will call the lift team to come move the more difficult patients, so that's been good news for me. I had the same concerns, but was too far through school really to turn back, and I guess I figured that with nursing, there are SO many options, there isn't only bedside nursing.

As for how I've had to manage my pain, my pain Dr. put me on an anti-epileptic, which actually treats neurogenic pain as well. There are other options, but the point is, there IS treatment out there, other than surgery. I'm not ready to go that route, because I hear that doesn't always solve the problem either. I also, like someone else has mentioned take the occasional narcotic for breakout pain, but again, I don't take it around the clock, and am not addicted to it, it doesn't affect me either because of my pain situation. To be honest, I probably have developed a tolerance and probably need a higher dose, but think that now that this other med is kicking in, I won't even need it as much, and I have more relief anyways! I've tried the lumbar epidural steroid injections, and they actually increased my pain A LOT because they took my swelling down (not sure if this is typical??) but my nerve pain was terrible when I laid down at night! I TOTALLY agree with what one other person said about strengthening your core as well, for some reason, I didn't take that to heart until recently, but I think that's the most important thing to keeping your back healthy and strong. I feel like if I had been more physically fit in the first place, maybe I wouldn't be as bad off as I am now, and I'm not really in that bad of shape, but just not strong enough. I was an NA, and doing lifting, which is how I ruined my back.

My other concern, was how you mentioned you are doing full care for your parents? Is there any way through medicare or anything that you guys can get some extra help for them? Or through the state, because in your condition, it is just too much, and making your condition worse.

Good luck to you, and feel free to email me, if you have any questions, or if I can be of any help to you!! Don't give up hope though, I know chronic pain can be depressing, I've had mine for 8 years, and am having relief for the FIRST time in those 8 years due to this med I'm on. Just try to seek some sort of relief, and don't give up if nursing is truly your dream!

Tait, MSN, RN

Specializes in Acute Care Cardiac, Education, Prof Practice. Has 14 years experience.

I have DJD in my L4/L5 which leads to pretty consistent sciatica/muscle spasms etc. I am on a 50lb weight restriction which I am hardly ever able to enforce. HOWEVER after years of chiropractic care I have found the amazing wonders of good old fashioned physical therapy. I have never been as pain free as I am right now.

I would suggest finding a solid ortho surgeon (in case you need it later) and ask for a PT consult. See if that might improve your quality of life and ability to work.

Best of luck!!


Sorry if this is repetitive of previous posts, I wanted to get a response in before I head off to work and didn't have time to read the whole thread.

Thank You everyone for all the kind support. What I do now know, is that I will meet some very wonderful people in this profession.

As far as the back pain, I or you all do not have time for what I have tried. Been down the road of MRI's,pt, acupuncture, myofacial pain release, rolfing, trigger point injections, Egosucue Method, Anthony Gary method, Feldenkries, Alexander Technique, Bowen Technique, chiro, function first, yoga, pilates....to name only a few.

I am now trying something through a chiropractor called the drx90000. So far no results. But, I will let you know if it helps in case I can help some one else.

I am just going to go for the nursing no matter what, I will find my way..

Happy Holidays and thanks again for guiding me!