Monthly Archives: March 2016

Preventing Back Injury as a Caretaker

If you are the caretaker for someone suffering from chronic pain or illness, you know that it is rewarding and necessary, even if it takes a toll. We know that many of our patients want or need some assistance at home after surgery, and it’s usually a family member who is the one to help. Providing care for the sick or elderly, whether for work or for a family member can put a strain on your mental, emotional and physical health.  We’d love to see you take some time to care for yourself, as well!  Your back is an important part of your daily routine, especially if you are a caretaker, and there are things you can do to help prevent strain and injury!

In 2009, a survey was given to over 60,000 care takes and the results were astonishing.  The study suggested that people in healthcare or private care may sustain physical and mental health issues as a result of their work.  Commonly, back pain was a primary health issue.  To prevent back pain while on the job you should try the following:

1)    Employ proper lifting techniques.

Just like lifting any heavy object, don’t bend at the waist. Use your legs to lift or pull. Try to avoid twisting when carrying a person.  Keep the person close to your body.  Keep your posture aligned.  Always accept help when offered.

2)    Consider lifting assistance devices

Walkers and rails are easy to use and install, if needed.  Other options are sliding boards, lift sheets or gait belts, which help you move a patient from one place to another safely.

3) Stretch and Strengthen your back

Try things like the “Standing Back Arch” – it includes taking a few, slow deep breaths to help you relax.  By exercising and stretching, you can help prevent injury before it happens.  The added benefit is that routine exercise is good for your mental health, too!

4)    Recognize the signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout.

You might be too busy taking care of others that you don’t even realize you need a little care for yourself.  Know your limits and don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Don’t be afraid to find someone you trust to talk about your feelings.  Most importantly, set some time aside for yourself.

Being a caretaker is both challenging and rewarding.  Even if you are a temporary caregiver after a surgery or brief illness, you still need to protect your health. There are times when you may put yourself at risk of injury while on duty.  Make sure that you help prevent back pain and injury by employing the techniques above.  If you have questions about best practices for preventing back pain as a caregiver, please reach out to one of our Nurse Navigators who can expertly answer all of your questions!

Prevent Back Pain with Exercise

Back Pain: There may be an easy remedy!

 Back pain can be caused by many different factors resulting in different treatment paths.  Some causes may require surgery while others may simply require specialized exercises and medication.  Often, if you are diagnosed with a chronic degenerative condition, such as spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease, it is best to follow the treatment path you set forth with your doctor at Nebraska Spine Hospital.  However, recent research shows that self-guided exercise is a better option for managing chronic back pain that thought in the past.

What are the two types of back pain?

Back pain is often classified as acute or chronic.  We will detail below the differences.

Acute back pain starts quickly and lasts less than 6 weeks.  This type of pain is often the result of improperly lifting heavy objects, falling or a sports injury. Tightened hamstrings may also contribute to low back pain (often resulting from being seated for long periods) making the spine do more work.  This type of back pain often goes away on its own and is easily treated with pain medication or cold/hot packs.  You can also learn to lift or pull with less stress on your back to prevent future injury.  It is best to limit your activity if you have an acute back strain to help the muscles heal.  However, to help prevent an injury in the future,  changing your sleeping position and how you exercise can be helpful.

If your pain has lasted more than three months, this is likely chronic back pain.  This can be the result of many causes such as lifestyle, genetics, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, or arthritis.  Interestingly, research has recently found that self-guided exercises are more effective in treating and preventing back pain compared to other accessories such as shoe orthotics or belts.  In the past, these items were often recommended to help with chronic back pain; however, it has been found that exercise is your best option.  Rather than spending money or pricey shoe orthotics, you can exercise for free and get a better result!  The research showed that people suffering from back pain found little to no success in using orthotics, but exercise programs proved to be successful preventatives.  What is even more encouraging is that the type of exercise didn’t necessarily matter.  Whether it was strengthening back muscles or aerobic, strength and balance conditioning, people saw results.  Specifically, “The end result was that if someone with a history of back pain exercised in a regular way, he or she was considerably less likely to be felled by more back pain within a year” (Reynolds, 2016).  By exercising, you are doing two things: keeping your back muscles strong to help prevent strain and maintaining a healthy weight to keep stress off of your joints and back.

We might sound like a broken record by now, but we can’t say it enough: exercise is good for you!  Not only does it keep your heart healthy, your mind healthy, but we find that it is also best to help prevent recurrence of chronic back pain!  Please consult with your NSH physician with any questions about your treatment path and progress.  We’re here to help!


Reynolds, Gretchen (2016)

NIH (2014)


Spine Surgery Nebraska

Exercise over Lunch

We all have been there before, “I’m just too busy to workout.”  Between work and family, there’s often little time left for ourselves.  It probably doesn’t need to be said, but we’ll say it anyway, exercise is important.  When it comes to surgical recovery, being healthy can help you get back to your normal self much more quickly.  If you are anticipating having a spinal surgery in the future, you may want to consider adding a healthy weight loss exercise routine to your day.  Less weight means less pressure on your joints and can even prevent injuries and pain from happening.  A great way to sneak in a work-out is fitting it in over your lunch break.  Lunch-break workouts are gaining in popularity. It may take a little bit of planning to get started, but you’ll look and feel better once you add this to your day.  Included are some helpful tips to let you squeeze in that workout when you just don’t have the time!


  1. Plan ahead!

On the days that you are going to workout, make sure you have everything you need.  Wear clothes that are easy to change out of.  Make sure you pack your lunch so you don’t waste time picking it up.  Choose the days where your schedule might be a little more flexible, so you’re not rushing out of a meeting or dialing in late to a call.

  1. Don’t skip lunch.

You need to eat.  Your body needs the fuel, especially if you are working out.  So, don’t skip your lunch to exercise, make sure you have time for both.  A light, low-fat lunch can be easier to digest after a good workout.

  1. You don’t need a gym.

Think outside of the gym for your lunch time workouts.  Think a bike ride, desk yoga, walk around your office, weightlifting or even chair squats.

  1. Find a friend.

Research shows that when you have a buddy, you are more motivated to work out.  You are more accountable and work harder, too!  Another great bonus to exercising with a partner?  Your friend gets to become fit, too!

  1. You only need 15 minutes.

It has been found that 15 minutes of intense exercise can have the same benefits of 60-minutes of longer, aerobic sessions.  You might be able to find a gym that offers classes specifically for those lunch-time workout warriors.

When having the time is an issue, you can always squeeze in a workout over lunch.  The more you exercise, the healthier you will be.  The better you feel.  Don’t do it for us, do it for yourself!  Always consult with your doctor before implementing any major lifestyle changes.  If you have a question about which exercises will be kind to your back, please don’t hesitate to contact us!


Video: Innovative Technology at Nebraska Spine Hospital -The O-Arm

Dr. Phillips talks about new innovative technology offered at Nebraska Spine Hospital including the O-Arm. For more spine tips and information like us on Facebook –

The spine hospital has been a great addition to our community and to our region. The spine hospital has specialty nurses that make it great. The nursing is spectacular. We have equipment that is spectacular, not found at other hospitals in the region. This equipment includes the O-Arm which is an intraoperative CAT scanner. It’s a machine that can take a CAT scan while the patient is asleep on the operating, and can help us direct screws, remove bone and usual in odd places, remove tumors, and has been a really great addition to what we do at the spine hospital. The spine hospital has equipment that is well-maintained and when you have those things together, you get great outcomes.