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Working Through the Back Pain


Back pain can range by severity in pain and typically affects 8 out of 10 people, according to MedlinePlus. If you happen to work in an industry where your job is very physical, such as a nurse, you might be more prone to experiencing back pain in your lifetime.

Every day, nurses work hard to take care of their patients, and unfortunately, many of them pay for it with back pain,” said Julia Tortorice RN, MBA, MSN, NEA-BC, CPHQ, CEUfast CFO and lead nurse planner. “Nursing is a physically demanding career, and with the lifting, transferring and repositioning of patients, it’s often considered an occupational hazard that comes with the territory.”

The lower back, or lumbar spine, is a very complex part of your body that interconnects bones, joints, nerves ligaments and muscles that all work together to provide support, strength and flexibility. Per Spine-health, the lower part of your back supports the weight of the upper body and provides mobility for every-day motions. However, due to its complex makeup, there are many things that could go wrong and cause pain.

What Causes Lower Back Pain?

Oftentimes, you will hear pregnant women experiencing back pain or people that have physical jobs where they stand or walk a lot, or even lift heavy objects such as when nurses are taking care of patients.

Most commonly, acute lower back pain is the result from an injury that took place in the muscles, ligaments, joints or discs in the spine, according to Spine-health. The body can also react to an injury by “mobilizing” and creating an “inflammatory healing response.” And while inflammation doesn’t seem like a big deal, it can cause severe pain.

Lower back pain, according to Spine-health, can range from “mild and merely annoying” to “severe and debilitating.” And, unfortunately, it could last months and even slowly start to get worse over time.

Here are some symptoms, per Spine-health, that you might feel while experiencing back pain:

  • Dull or achy pain near the lower back
  • Stinging, burning pain that moves from the lower back to the backs of the thighs or sometimes lower into the legs or feet; this can also include numbness or tingling
  • Muscle spasms and tightness in the low back, pelvis and hips
  • Pain that worsens after prolonged sitting or standing
  • Difficulty standing up straight, walking or going from standing to sitting

Another way to describe back pain is by using a description of how the pain occurs and how long it lasts. For example, back pain that comes on suddenly and lasts for a while and is deemed a “normal” response to the body being injured is labeled as acute pain. Pain that lasts between 6 week to 3 months and is typically due to muscle strain or joint pain is called subacute low back pain. And, per Spine-health, chronic back pain is usually defined as pain that lasts over 3 months and is usually severe.

If you decide to go see a doctor or specialist, typically lower back pain can be categorized most commonly as either mechanical pain or radicular pain. According to Spine-health, mechanical is most likely the root of the problem and is pain that primarily comes from muscles, ligaments, joints or bones around the spine.

Nurses in particular are likely to experience back pain at some point in their life. So, why is this? And, what are some ways that you can minimize your risk for back injuries?

Back Pain in Nurses


If you are a nurse, you most likely understand the chronic pain that comes with having a bad back. A study that was released by the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine discovered that 65 percent of orthopedic nurses and 58 percent of ICU nurses develop debilitating lower back pain during their career.

How does this happen? If you have any experience in the medical field, you may find that these back injuries are most commonly found while doing lateral transfers, ambulating, repositioning and manipulating. And, according to the Spine Institute of North America (SINA), these back injuries don’t just happen all of a sudden. Instead, they typically start as a small spasm that slowly grows until it feels like a permanent part of your existence.

SINA explains that nurses mainly struggle with musculoskeletal and nervous system issues in their back due to repetitive motions, overuse and strain that can cause debilitating pain. Luckily, there are a few different tactics that you can use to keep these back injuries from happening:

  • Work on your posture and body mechanics
  • Try to flex your hips, knees and feet periodically when standing for long periods of time
  • Finding the right, firm type of mattress
  • Exercising regularly
  • Try to do exercises that can help strengthen the pelvic, abdominal and lumbar muscles
  • If an activity is putting too much stress on your spine, try to avoid it
  • Educate yourself on how to lift heavy objects appropriately
  • Wear comfortable clothing, including low-heeled shoes that provide good support for your feet

In order to take care of your patients, you must first take care of yourself. If you find that you are experiencing a lot of back pain, you should try to consult with your doctor and you may have to find a specialist.

When to Get Help with Back Pain


Fortunately, there are numerous types of healthcare practitioners that care for patients who might be experiencing back pain. Typically, you would start with your primary care provider, a chiropractor or a doctor of osteopathic medicine. However, if your pain is worse than what they can help you with, you might have to go see a spine specialist.

Per Spine-health, there are a few different types of doctors that can aid with back pain, which include:

  • Primary care providers, which generally include a primary care physician, chiropractors and doctors of osteopathic medicine
  • Spine specialists have more of a specific area of expertise in certain diagnoses and/or treatments for back pain, which includes surgeons, physiatrist, anesthesiologists, neurologists, rheumatologists
  • Therapists have experience in either physical or occupational rehabilitation for back pain or psychological help for chronic pain, and they typically include physical therapists, occupational therapists and clinical psychologists

Per MedlinePlus, most back pain goes away on its own, though it may take awhile. Taking over-the-counter pain medications and resting can help. But you shouldn’t stay immobile for long as that could do worse damage. If you injure your back during an accident, you should immediately seek medical attention. If the back pain isn’t too severe, however, you can try seeing if the pain gets better within a couple of days before calling a doctor.

So, the next time you are in a situation where you are lifting a heavy piece of medical equipment or trying to reposition a patient, you have to stop and think about the right way to use your body so that you don’t end up injuring your back. Even though it might be easy to forget about when emergencies happen or there’s pressure during a surgical procedure, it’s important to take the time to practice self-awareness because it might help save your back in the long run.

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