Ways to take care of your spine, plus lifting do’s and don’ts.
Caring for others starts with caring for yourself. Truth is, you’re no use to anyone if you’re injured, and when lifting, dressing and mobilising clients are part of your job description, your back should be a key priority.
What can you do?
- Investigate training opportunities to upskill yourself on how to keep your spine safe at work. Ask your local GP, and contact ACC, who has instructional pamphlets and videos on how to help people from sitting to standing, out of bed, from a car to a walking frame and more.
- If your client hasn’t already done so, you might like to ask them to organise an occupational therapy assessment through their GP or local hospital to determine what options might be available in terms of equipment to make daily tasks safer and easier.
- Poor posture can put you at increased risk of back injury. Work to improve your posture by standing with your feet flat on the floor, back straight, arms relaxed, shoulders back and down and chin tilted slightly up.
- Staying active can both protect you from back pain and shorten your recovery time after an injury. Any exercise will be good for your overall health and strength, but exercises that specifically strengthen your core will be particularly beneficial – think Pilates and yoga.
- Wearing flat shoes with non-slip, cushioned soles and arch support can help reduce the strain on your back.
- Keep your stress and anxiety in check. Both can cause muscle tension, leading to back pain.
- Maintain a healthy weight to reduce unnecessary pressure on your spine.
When lifting, do:
- Place your feet wide enough apart to create a solid, well-balanced base.
- Tighten your tummy muscles to help support your spine.
- Keep the person you’re lifting close to your body, and lift with your legs, bending your knees.
- Move slowly, pivoting with your feet rather than twisting your spine.
- Plan ahead. Check for hazards underfoot, and make sure you have enough room to move and that the room is well lit. Check that the person you’re moving can hear you, is comfortable and ready to move with you; encourage them to look in the direction of the move.
- Move in a way that feels awkward.
- Pull someone towards you – this can cause you both to become unbalanced.
- Pull someone up from their armpits or using their arms.
- Allow someone to hold you around the neck.
The bottom line? If your back hurts, listen! More than 80% of New Zealanders will experience back pain in their lifetime, so if you become one of them, see your doctor as soon as possible. Acute pain that comes on suddenly and lasts for only a matter of weeks may be caused by an injury and requires immediate treatment. Chronic pain, lasting more than three months, need not be a life sentence and may also be treated with medication, exercise and complementary therapies such as osteopathy, acupuncture and physiotherapy.