Back Pain in Nurses
This content was medically reviewed by Baher S. Yanni, MD, on April 15th, 2020.
Nurses are often the unsung hero of the health care profession. These tireless women and men work long hours, offering compassionate care to those in need. Because of the nature of the job, back pain and nursing often go hand-in-hand.
For nurses, back-related injuries usually don’t crop up all at once. It often starts as a little spasm that slowly grows until back pain becomes part of your life as a nurse. In this post, we’ll explore what causes back injuries among nurses and if there’s anything you can do to prevent back pain.
Common Causes of Back Pain Among Nurses
Thousands of nurses struggle with back pain due to cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs). These are musculoskeletal and nervous system issues caused by the routine tasks nurses perform every day. Repetitive motions, overuse and strain cause these painful and sometimes disabling conditions that gradually develop over weeks, months or even years.
The nature of the job means nurses face a wide array of occupational hazards that affect the back’s muscles, tendons, discs and ligaments. As a result, nurses have a high risk for musculoskeletal injuries as well as reoccurring health issues.
Some of the duties nurses take for granted that can eventually lead to a back injury include:
- Heavy manual lifting associated with transferring and repositioning patients or moving equipment and supplies without waiting for help
- Working in awkward positions such as holding objects during a surgical procedure or consistently bending over
- Pushing and pulling patients in stretchers and wheelchairs
- The use of vibrating or impact tools or equipment for hours at a time
- Habitual poor standing and sitting postures, exaggerating the curvature of the lumbar spine
How Nurses Can Minimize Potential Risk Factors for Back Injuries
Education among nurses and their employers is essential to protect the health and well-being of our nurses. Nurses should be taught how to practice self-awareness so they can recognize and
report signs and symptoms of musculoskeletal back disorders to their supervisors immediately. This can reduce the severity and cost of back-related injuries among nurses.
Here are some actions you can take to keep the most common CTDs at bay:
- Improve your posture and body mechanics
- When standing for long periods of time, flex your hips, knees and feet periodically
- Sleep on a firm mattress
- Exercise regularly
- Strengthen the pelvic, abdominal and lumbar muscles
- Avoid unnecessary activities that put undue stress on your spine
- Learn how to lift heavy objects appropriately
- Wear comfortable clothing, including low-heeled shoes with good foot support
Back Pain Treatment Options at Metropolitan Pain & Spine Institute
While nurses care for others on a daily basis, they are notorious for ignoring their own health and well-being. If long hours on your feet and repetitive tasks are causing back pain, then it’s time to act.
Contact a back pain specialist at Metropolitan Pain & Spine Institute. We can assess your condition and get you the treatment you need so you can get back to treating others.