What is the number one fear nurses usually have when it comes to injury at work? Hurting their back. It's pretty common to hear nurses say that they have back pain or have strained their back at one time or another while at work. Because of the physical demands on nurses, back injuries are a major concern. Today I want to share a few ways to help protect your back by showing a few strength, mobility and stretching techniques that can be very helpful in taking care of your back for the long haul.
This first one is called a cat/cow stretch. It is great for mobility of your entire spine and can feel really good if your back has been stiff for any reason. Get on your hands and knees, knees about hip width apart, and hands directly under shoulders. Inhale as you arch your back and look up, then exhale as you round your back and tuck your chin into your chest. Repeat several times.
Next we have child's pose. This is such a relaxing pose to rest in for a while. Start on hands and knees, and simply shift your hips all the way back and rest your head against the ground. You may feel more comfortable if you spread your knees out further apart here. This is a great stretch for your entire back. Rest here for 5-10 full breathes.
Next up is downward facing dog with heel pumps. I like to get into this pose from a plank position first. Push your hips up and back and press your hands firmly into the ground pressing your chest towards your thighs. Pumping your heels is a great way to stretch the calves and hamstrings, and you are stretching out your upper back with pressing your chest to your thighs. Rest in child's pose if desired when done with this stretch.
Supine twists are great for stretching, increasing rotation through the rib cage, and they just feel good! Start by lying on your back. Pull one knee into your chest and pull across your body with opposite hand. Stretch your other arm out to the side and breathe deep into the stretch. Repeat other side.
Bird dog is a great way to strengthen the stabilizing muscles in your back. This may not look like much, but this is a great exercise to do on a regular basis. Take note, it is important to keep your spine stable during this exercise... I am not flexing and rounding my back with this movement. The spine stays neutral as I move opposite arm and opposite leg.
And last, we can add in some forward folds. Stand tall with feet together. Take a deep breath in as you lift your hands up, then breathe out as you fold forward letting your hands hang. You can have a slight bend in the knee if it feels comfortable, or legs all the way straight. Take a breath in and come to a half lift (back straight and hands on shins), exhale again as you fold down. Slowly roll up one vertebrae at a time until standing tall. Repeat.
Try incorporating these stretches and exercises into your daily life, especially if you suffer from any tightness or weakness in your back. Warning: if you have lower back pain, forward fold may not feel good to you. Never force a stretch that does not feel good to your body. Start slow and work your way into deeper stretches as time goes on. Doing these regularly can make all the difference in the world when it comes to good back health. Give them a try!
Terri Wentzell is a registered nurse with more than 20 years of experience. She is also a certified personal trainer, wellness coach, fitness nutrition coach, and sport yoga instructor.