Roughly 35 million Americans provide some type of unpaid care to adults 50 or older. Whether you care for an older family member or are a paid healthcare professional, it’s safe to assume you’ve likely experienced spine-related aches and pains at one time or another. Part of the reason for this is due to the stress placed on certain structures and muscle groups when helping someone with physical limitations. Fortunately, there are some ways you may be able to prevent back injuries if you’re a caregiver.
The act of caregiving is likely to involve a need to do some lifting, which is also an easy way to quickly sustain a back injury if you’re not careful. First of all, bend with your knees but not at your waist. Lifts and harnesses can take some pressure off your spine or its supporting muscles. Further protect your spine while lifting by:
• Performing a tandem lift with another person when possible
• Maintaining proper head-neck alignment
• Keeping your feet shoulder-width apart to help with balance
• Avoiding twisting motions—pivot and turn instead if you need to change directions while lifting
Get Regular Exercise
Make some time to get regular exercise when you’re not acting as a caregiver. The purpose of exercising is to ease the burden on your backbone by keeping your spine-supporting core muscles strong. From low-impact aerobic workouts to swimming and cycling, there are many forms of exercise that target these muscles. If you have some limitations yourself with certain exercises, consider water-based exercises or controlled-movement disciplines such as yoga to target the core muscle groups in a gentler way.
Be Aware of Your Limits
All it takes is one moment of excessive stress or a slip or fall to seriously injure your back and end up needing specialized treatment, such as coflex back surgery. Los Angeles caregivers need to be aware of their limits when providing care for someone. For instance, if the people they’re caring for need a lot of assistance with the bathing process or getting out of bed, they should get some help from another family member or a coworker.
Use Assistive Devices
When there’s nobody around to lend a hand as you perform your caregiving duties, take advantage of the many assistive devices available today to make certain tasks less burdensome on your spine. For instance, you might wear a back brace to maintain your posture as you bend, lift, and stretch. Encourage the person you’re caring for to consider assistive devices such as walkers and canes as well so he or she won’t have to physically rely on you as much. Other devices that could benefit you and/or someone you’re caring for include:
• Grip bars to ease burdens while bathing or using the bathroom
• Reachers to safely get certain items off of higher shelves
• Transfer seats to help someone get in and out of chairs or car seats
You’re not going to be doing yourself or the person you care for any favors if you’re not mindful of your own health, which is why it’s important to see your doctor or a Los Angeles spine surgeon sooner rather than later if you start to notice signs of a back injury or worsening symptoms from an existing spine condition.
If you’re experiencing back pain as a result of caregiving or any other cause, reach out to the back health specialists at The Spine Institute. Our physicians are industry leaders when it comes to diagnosing and treating neck and back pain. Call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.