Back Pain? How to Avoid This Chronic Nursing Injury
Q&A with a chiropractor
At times we nurses find ourselves in the most contorted positions. You name it, we’ve moved it: patients, beds, equipment…the list can go on and on. When I render personal training sessions to nurses, one of the most common concerns I hear pertains to back pain, stiffness and how best to remedy them.
I myself experienced misalignments in my hip and back as a result of prior obesity and other posture-related issues. Through stretching and exercising, I had relieved most of my problem, but knew I needed to take it a step further. So I decided to see a chiropractor.
Within a few treatments, I felt much better and was able to continue exercising. The process was very manual and, because I had years of tight muscles that had built up, the need to address my specific condition was imminent. But before you decide to undergo chiropractic care, it is important to understand the entire procedure.
In this two-part series, we will explore the fundamentals of a healthy back care regimen, beginning first and foremost with awareness. What are some of the best ways to address our postural and back health, and how do we ensure that it stays fit? I set up an interview with Dr. Tim Barry, D.C., a graduate of the Cleveland Chiropractic College of Los Angeles, to get his feedback on your questions.
What is the best method I can use to help my posture?
Act as if you have a string attached to the top of your head and someone else is pulling it upward. This position will naturally pull your shoulders back and give help give you an erect posture.
My work is administrative and I find myself sitting a lot. What is the optimal body position?
It is best to move your entire body forward (by rocking the pelvis) and keep the chin up (instead of drooping) when doing computer work. This will provide the correct lumbar spine curve. For paperwork, don't allow the shoulders to round forward too much and try to keep from allowing the head to fall into an exaggerated anterior head carriage position.
Does the body conform to the position I sit in on a daily basis? Is this a good or bad thing?
Yes, the body tends to conform based on the posture you routinely use. For example, if you tend to veer or lean to one side of your body versus the other side, the side you lean toward becomes dominant and shorter. Using a good chair is key. The more expensive the chair doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it’s better. For nurses who need more lumbar support, it is worth it to invest in a L-support pillow.
What about standing dos and don’ts?
Many people have a tendency to shift their body weight and bear weight on one leg and shift to the other leg. This places a tremendous strain on your hip and pelvis. It is important to distribute weight evenly when standing.
What are some postural conditions I should be aware of? And can you recommend any exercises?
I often see very tight and strong neck muscles. An exercise that I recommend for this is, when you are in bed, lay on your back with your head situated on a pillow. Pushing your head directly back down into the pillow for a few seconds, which will offer relief for this area.
What do I look for when choosing a chiropractor?
Go to a reputable and credible doctor of chiropractic. The chiropractic professional will possess the assessment and evaluation skills needed in order to determine the specific needs of the patient.
How do I know whether I need to see a chiropractor or get assistance from an orthopaedic specialist?
If you feel pain, it is important to take measures by having a checkup. A qualified chiropractor will determine if your condition requires intervention from the appropriate health care provider.
Are consistent exercise and stretching regimens important?
Core strengthening exercises, as well as stretching/flexibility exercises, are very important in maintaining your back health. It greatly assists to avoid stiffening and shortening of the muscles, thus helping to alleviate some chronic pain.
A strong balanced core and back will help establish and maintain postural awareness. When we participate in aerobic and resistance training exercises our muscles shorten upon contraction. After the workout, it is so imperative to stretch your body while the muscles are warm. A complete active and/or passive stretching session increases flexibility and lessens stiffness and tightness in the hamstrings and hip flexors, which can aggravate your back. A 10-minute walk prior to stretching helps to ensure that blood flow has circulated and that synovial fluid has bathed the joints.
Debbi Mouradjian is a certified fitness trainer and has been a licensed vocational nurse since 1987. She speaks on topics such as Type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension and embracing lifestyle choices to reduced obesity.