Monthly Archives: April 2017

Back Pain: A Health Concern For Nurses

If you had to guess, which profession would you say suffers more back injuries, nursing or construction? If you guessed nursing, you’re correct. Nurses with back pain are an all too common occurrence.

Did you know that nurses are three times more likely to suffer a back injury than a construction worker? In fact, nurses are more likely to experience back pain than truck drivers, manual laborers, stock handlers, and construction workers.Nurses are three times more likely to suffer a back injury than a construction worker. Click To Tweet

Patient handling tasks are usually to blame for the pain. Tasks such as lifting, transferring, and repositioning patients can be difficult for even the most experienced nurses. Factor in the limited space in patient rooms to perform these tasks, and you have a recipe for disaster.

When repeated for a number of years, patient handling tasks alone can wreak havoc on the spine’s health, meaning there’s a possibility of developing back pain without a significant injury.

With 52% of nurses reporting chronic back pain, we believe it’s up to hospitals to implement strategies to keep their nurses pain-free. That’s why here at Nebraska Spine Hospital, we do everything we can to keep our nurses healthy and out on the floor. 52% of nurses report suffering from chronic back pain. Click To Tweet

Back strengthening exercises can be beneficial for nurses with back pain. Below are three different exercises to strengthen your entire core that can be performed in the comfort of your own home. As you become stronger, you can expect to hold the exercises for longer periods of time and should continue to challenge yourself.

Modified Plank

The modified plank is a beginner-friendly version of the plank. To begin, lie on your stomach. Raise your body until your weight is resting on your forearms and knees, ensuring your shoulders are directly above your elbows. Tighten your abdominal muscles and hold for 15-30 seconds. Return to the starting position and rest for a couple minutes before repeating the exercise.

Side Plank

The side plank is a variation of the exercise above. To begin, lie on your left side. Raise yourself onto your left forearm, so all of your weight is resting on your feet and left forearm. Make sure your left shoulder is directly above your left elbow and keep your knees, hips, and shoulders aligned. Tighten your abdominal muscles and hold for 15-30 seconds. Return to the starting position and rest for a couple minutes before repeating the exercise.

Segmented Rotation

Lie on your back with your knees bent and tighten your abdominal muscles. While keeping your shoulders on the floor, let your knees slowly fall to the left and hold for 15-30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat on the right side. Remember, only let your knees go as far as is comfortable. As you continue to perform the exercise, your flexibility will improve.

Performing these exercises will help nurses with back pain to strengthen their backs and mitigate the risks associated with a career in nursing. However, these exercises are not specific to nurses. If you are experiencing back pain, or simply want to strengthen your core, perform the exercises as instructed above. For more information on how to keep your back healthy, please use our older blog posts as a resource.

Neck Pain From Looking Down

Did you know that neck pain is the third most common type of chronic pain? Over 25% of Americans suffer from this condition and, nearly 60% of them don’t tell their physicians about the pain.

One of the most common causes of neck pain is simply looking down too often. We know that might sound absurd. You cannot live your entire life without looking down at all, and we’re not asking you to.

When a patient comes in complaining of neck pain, we generally ask them what activities they look down most often for. The main culprits are cell phones and laptops. In fact, neck pain caused by looking down is often referred to as ‘text neck’. neck pain caused by looking down is often referred to as ‘text neck’. Click To Tweet

Even though the action of looking down is small, the amount of pressure placed on your neck increases with the frequency of the action. Meaning, looking down to write a check shouldn’t cause you pain, but looking down to work from a laptop eight hours a day, five days a week will.

The pressure from looking down will begin to build in your neck, leading to damage such as neck pain, soreness, upper back muscle spasms, and even premature degeneration which can lead to arthritis.

But don’t fret. There are certain measures you can take to prevent developing neck pain. Below are four simple ways to reduce the likelihood of experiencing this type of pain.

Prevent Neck Pain

  1. If you believe cell phone usage may be to blame for your pain, try holding your phone higher. Having your phone at eye level eliminates the need to look down at all.
  2. If you believe working from a laptop may be a contributing factor, adjust your workspace. You can either place your laptop at eye level and use a separate keyboard, or you can hook your laptop up to a monitor that is at eye level.
  3. If you cannot avoid looking down for long periods of time, take frequent breaks to stretch. To relieve neck pain, gently tilt your head from right to left, holding for about 20 seconds on each side.
  4. Heat therapy may be effective in relieving your pain. Try either a heating pad or ice pack on the affected area for 10-20 minutes, 4-6 times per day.

The measures above may help you in relieving neck pain. If the pain persists, we urge you to reach out to your physician. Chronic pain is a pain in the neck that no one should have to be content living with.

Depression and Chronic Back Pain

April 8th is World Health Day and this year’s focus is depression. Depression affects a great deal of the patients we see so we wanted to take the time to talk about depression and chronic back pain.

What is depression?

Depression is a common, serious medical illness. In 2015, 16.1 million US adults experienced at least one depressive episode – that’s almost 7% of all US adults.Nearly 7% of all US adults have experienced depression in the past year. Click To Tweet

Women are twice as likely as men to be depressed and researchers believe genetics play a role in developing depression. If a sibling or parent is depressed, you’re more like experience depression.

If you experience five or more of the symptoms below for two consecutive weeks, you may be depressed.

  • Sadness
  • Fatigue or decreased energy
  • Insomnia
  • Feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Persistent pain such as headaches
  • Excessive weight loss
  • Thoughts of death and/or suicide

Depression and chronic back pain.

People experiencing chronic back pain are four times more likely to develop depression. An article published by Harvard Medical School says, “Pain is depressing, and depression causes and intensifies pain.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. See, chronic back pain sufferers are more susceptible to depression because the pain makes it hard to sleep, causing irritability. The pain makes it harder to be mobile, leading to isolation from family and friends. Pain can even make it almost impossible to concentrate on anything, leaving you to mindless activities.

The problem with depression and chronic back pain is that the two become cyclical and nearly indistinguishable from one another, leaving it harder to diagnose. But there is hope – both chronic pain and depression are entirely manageable, meaning no one should be content living in pain.

If you or a loved one are suffering from depression and chronic back pain, we urge you to speak up and seek medical attention. If the pain has become unbearable and you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call for help. The numbers below are available 24/7 for immediate help.

  • 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433)
  • 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
  • 911