Healthcare workers are among the highest ranked for occupational back pain and injuries, taking valuable time away from their assigned duties and patient care. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurses experience more than 35,000 back and musculoskeletal injuries on the job annually that prevent them from working. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported that almost half of all healthcare workers will experience at least one work-related musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) during their career.
Though the nature of the job is fast-paced, high-stress, and physically demanding, healthcare workers can decrease their chances of incurring a back injury by implementing proper body mechanics, practicing good posture, and developing core strength. Clinicians can only provide safe care for their patients if they care for themselves.
Pause. Assess. Protect!
Follow these tips for good body mechanics
- Keep a wide base of support with one foot slightly forward.
- Be sure to plant your feet firmly and bend your knees.
- Wear appropriate footwear.
- Know your limitations. Ask for help. Is equipment available to make this safer (i.e., non-friction sheets, gait belts, lifting slings, mechanical lifts, etc.)?
- Hold loads close and firm. Hips and shoulders should be square.
Tips for Preventing Injury
- Avoid quick and jerky movements that can strain back muscles.
- Avoid twisting when lifting: “Nose goes with toes.”
- In addition to proper body mechanics, communicating with your patient and team is essential. Let your patient know what you are doing and ask them to assist if they can. Create a plan. Make sure language is clear among staff when working together to transfer or move a patient.
Following these preventative tips is easier said than done in the heat of the moment. Regardless, try to form good habits. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle will help lower your risk. Regular aerobic activity, core strengthening exercises, and stretching for flexibility will all help prevent injury. Keep a healthy weight, stay hydrated, get massages to encourage blood flow to injured muscles or affected areas, and get plenty of sleep.
Safe Patient Handling and Mobility (nursingworld.org)
Safe Lifting Techniques | OSHA Safety Manuals (safetymanualosha.com)
Interventions to Prevent Back Pain (National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
Safe Patient Handling (osha.gov/healthcare/safe-patient-handling)
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