Back injuries are very common in nursing and second only to construction workers. I remember one time in my ten-year career I was going to pick up a patient who fell on the floor and as I was lifting this patient my lower back gave me a quick reminder this is not such a good idea. At the time, I was powerlifting, so I was over confident in my back’s ability to lift whatever it needed to. Luckily, I never hurt my back at work and only had that one incident in ten years where I was close to hurting it.
Being a male, I would say I lifted more patient’s off the floor and had more opportunities to injure my back than most nurses can say. I was commonly recruited to help lift heavy patients in the bed or help them walk. I was eager to help since that is my personality, and I felt so confident in my physical strength.
So, why has my back remained this healthy after ten years of floor nursing and I have zero pain today? First of all, I want to thank God for this. At times I have not been wise, and he has given me grace and not made me learn some lessons the hard way. In the following paragraphs, I am going explain to you the main way you can help prevent back injuries and some things you can do if you get injured.
Keep Your Back Strong –You may be asking yourself, “How do I get my back strong?” Maybe you feel your back is already strong. If you do not do any weight lifting off the floor, I assure you your back is not strong and is vulnerable to injury.
You may say, “But Brian I don’t plan on picking a patient up off the floor anytime soon.” I say, “You never know.” Your patients could fall or pass out, or you could be out in the community and need to lift someone if no one else is around or everyone else around you is panicking. I know for me, I get in the zone and do whatever needs to be done to get the patient safe. I think you will do the same thing and this is when an injury can happen. When the adrenaline is pumping most people switch into react mode without much thought involved. You may say, “Well I will use good body mechanics when I lift.” You can only lift so much like that if your back and legs are weak. Also, you may be so zoned in that you forget to bend at the knees when you lift like I did.
So, how do you get your back strong? By lifting with it and slowly building the muscles in your back over time. This will allow you to have a much higher threshold for preventing injuries in case you need to lift, and your form gets thrown out for some reason.
Most of you have watched countless videos throughout your career on how you should bend your knees when lifting and keep objects close to your body when you lift. So I will spare you these details, but I am going to give you a video of two exercises I do to keep my back strong. If you still need further help, contact a competent personal trainer who believes in using these lifts to strengthen your back and will not try to build your back on machines. If you did not already know this, many personal trainers are not competent in coaching the deadlift so proceed with caution when hiring someone for this. If you would like to teach yourself, the book I would recommend is Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe.
If you have a prior back injury and are not able to do these lifts for whatever reason, then start doing something with gradual progression on the weight. For this route, machines may be a better way to go until you have enough strength, confidence, and flexibility in your lower back to start doing some deadlifts.
If you injure your back – The advice you will probably get from your doctor will be not to do any lifting and stay on bed rest. I would recommend you see a chiropractor and a good massage therapist. I know a great massage therapist and chiropractor if you need one. These professionals are very knowledgeable when it comes to these types of injuries and will help you heal without recommending drugs or surgery. Certain cases may need surgery, but more often than not you can heal it through noninvasive means.
It will take patience and work on your part. The key is to maintain flexibility in the joint and get deep tissue work to break up the scar tissue from the injury. Slowly, over time you can build your strength back up in your back. One of the worst things you can do is to do nothing. You have to take an active role in rehabbing your back. If you do nothing your back will get stiffer and weaker, and the scar tissue from the injury will not get broken up, and you will be vulnerable to injuries later because you never properly fixed the injury the first time it happened.
So many people say, “I have a bad back.” Many times this is due to not properly fixing the injury in the first place. There are some exceptions to this if it is injured bad enough. I have seen some pretty bad injuries in my years in the gym and powerlifting, and the human body has an amazing ability to come back from these injuries. Your body has a miraculous ability to heal itself, but you have to give it the tools to do so.
Back injuries are a serious problem, and I want you to be prepared and informed on them so you can prevent them and know what to do if you do experience one. Remember, lift with your knees bent and objects close to your body. Do not turn at the waist while you are in the process of lifting something heavy. Perform the exercises in the videos once a week at your local gym or your home gym if you have one. Remember the lower back muscle are some of the slowest muscles to recover from exercise in the body, so you only need to work them out once a week and two at the most. These two exercises with gradual weight progression will allow you to strengthen your back over time.
If you have an injury, take an active role by rehabbing it and seek a great chiropractor and massage therapist to help you with this. Keep the area flexible and do lots of deep tissue work and you will be back to your normal self in no time. You will not constantly be injuring the area again, and you will not have to be self-conscious every time you need to lift something. By properly rehabbing your back you will reduce the days you miss from work due to injury.
What are some of the ways you have kept your back injury-free throughout your career and what did you do when an injury did occur? Have you tried any of the techniques mentioned above? How did they work for you? Let me know in the comments below or message me with your questions.
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