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Back pain prevention checklist

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“Oh, my aching back!”

You’ve heard it. You’ve probably said it. But the all-too-frequent lament by nurses can be avoided!

Yes, given the nature of your work, you’re especially vulnerable to the “occupational hazard” of lower back pain. Even seasoned nurses can get in a hurry and fail to safeguard their backs when moving a patient. So follow the simple guidelines below, put together by renowned physical therapy expert Vinod Somareddy, DPT.

  • Bend your knees, and keep your back straight when lifting and moving patients. Bending your knees puts the workload on the stronger muscles in the legs and eliminates some of the pressure on the weaker muscles of the back.
  • Take time to prepare, estimate and determine the effort needed to move someone.
  • Speak to the patient first to get her to work with you, so the patient is assisting rather than giving you more work.  When moving the patient up in bed, for example, ask your patient to bend their knees and dig their heels in to assist with the move if they are able to do so.  Be sure to convey exactly what you are going to do and what you expect out of them and allow them plenty of time to move in small movements if they have to.
  • Never let your center of gravity fall forward or to one side.
  • Avoid locking your knees; keep your knees flexed a bit to prepare against a fall.
  • Make use of siding boards, chair rails and other devices to assist you.  Drawsheets under the patient are also great resources for moving patient side-to-side and up in bed.
  • If it’s too difficult to transfer a patient, never be afraid to ask for help from coworkers!  It is safer for you and the patient and you can return the favor next time they have a patient they need assistance with.


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Vinod Somareddy

Vinod Somareddy, DPT, is president of Reddy-Care Physical Therapy in Great Neck, N.Y. Reddy-Care is a leading physical therapy practice specializing in manual therapy for a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. For more information, see reddycare.net and you can also visit the Reddy Care blog at http://reddycarephysicaltherapy.blogspot.com.
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