1. When you can sleep, do it right.
Nurses do some seriously heavy lifting, both literally and metaphorically, and those 12-hour shifts can be tough on the body. That’s why when you do have an opportunity to get some rest, you want to make sure that your sleep style isn't cramping your work style and contributing to your back pain.
The first thing that you should start with is your mattress. Take a good hard and honest look at your mattress. Is it really providing the support you need? If not, it could be disrupting your spinal structure and causing muscle strain—which is so not something you need.
If you tend to sleep on your stomach, you’re causing your neck and head to twist to the side while you snooze, which is not something your back likes very much.
If you’re battling back pain, try sleeping on your back with a pillow positioned underneath the knees, or on your side with a pillow placed between them. This should help your spine maintain a neutral position throughout the night, sounds good right?
2. Get moving.
Okay, so we admit that this sounds counterproductive, but a stronger core and flexible, active muscles can serve to alleviate back pain.
Depending upon the severity of your back pain, anything from daily activity to aquatic exercises may help stave off those “can’t really move that way” moments. Focus on activities that emphasize strengthening, stretching and low-impact conditioning. At Infectious we are big fans of Pilates, core strength and more core strength. Other options? Physiotherapy, swimming, riding a bike, yoga (though some positions may prove more beneficial than others)—even a simple morning or afternoon walk can get those muscles going.
Keep in mind that the advantages of a more active lifestyle are twofold, since a healthy weight will ease the strain on your back.
3. Allow yourself time to relax, too.
Many studies link back pain to chronic or acute pain. And go figure—nurses have more than enough of that.
That’s why it’s doubly important for you to make your mental and emotional health a priority, whether that be a hobby, routine happy hours, meditation or simply talking.
Also as we get older it's a good idea to incorporate some stretching into our daily routine. You will feel more ready to go to work if your body is loose and stretching after work is a great stress reliever as well.
4. Pay attention to your posture.
The good news? Sitting at a computer all day, hunched over the keyboard, is one thing many nurses don’t have to worry about. The bad news? That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always be aware of your posture.
Avoid slumping during your commute, when you’re writing your notes, lunching or simply standing. The straighter your back, the less it will send you angry messages in the form of aggravation later. That goes for when you’re carrying your work bag to and fro, too. Lighten the load - only carry with you what you really need to reduce the weight and try to keep the weight evenly distributed by alternating shoulders on your tote-bag.
5. Spoil yourself a little bit.
A warm bath, a professional massage and a warm cup of tea…these are all pleasant, appealing ideas, no?
Luckily, these are a few things that can actually alleviate your back pain, too. Allow us to explain: The heat from a warm bath helps ease tense muscles; massage therapy can reduce lower back pain while developing range of motion and flexibility; and the ginger, cardamon, cinnamon or cloves found in many herbal teas will work to reduce inflammation. Sounds like a nice way to enjoy your days off.
So while you are busy looking after the world don't forget to look after yourself with some of the tips and ideas above.
Infectious Medical loves nurses. Stay fit and stay well.