With each successive degree you bend your neck forward when using your mobile handheld device, you increase the stress on your cervical spine. Over time, the orthopedic damage could prove catastrophic. (Graphic courtesy of Dr. Kenneth Hansraj and Surgical Technology International)

Back and neck pain in nursing: How to prevent these on-the-job ailments

Nursing can be a job that’s physically difficult, making you prone to back and neck pain. From helping patients turn over to moving equipment, you may often perform repeated tasks that take a toll on your body.

In fact, registered nurses are more likely to suffer strains and sprains on the job than construction workers are.

» RELATED: How working as a nurse makes you stronger

The following tips can help nurses reduce their risk of suffering neck and back pain as a result of their on-the-job activities:

Maintain the right posture

Proper posture is key to avoiding neck and back pain, according to Ralph Templeton, a doctor of chiropractic. “Here’s what it comes down to … your posture really is what sets you up for having the ability to sustain that kind of (work-related) stress or not,” the founder and owner of the spinal clinics of Bremen and Rockmart and The Precision Pain Relief Center of Norcross, explains.

Take care of your feet and footwear.

“If you’re going to be on your feet, you need good feet and footwear,” Templeton said. So, for example, if you have an arch problem, you may benefit from wearing orthotics.

Use proper body mechanics.

When you’re lifting or positioning a patient or moving heavy equipment, nursebuff.com recommends the following tips:

  • Bend at your hips and knees, not your waist.
  • Set your feet apart.
  • Keep your neck, back, pelvis and feet aligned when you’re turning or moving.

Pull, don’t push.

Use your arms to pull an object rather than pushing it. Nursebuff.com points out that this reduces your risk of back strain and lets you use your stronger biceps and triceps rather than your back muscles.

» RELATED: Core training isn't just a buzzword—it helps nurses at home and on the job

Make sure your sleep style isn’t a problem.

If your mattress doesn’t provide enough support, scrubsmag.com says, it could disrupt your spinal structure and cause muscle strain. That means it’s time to invest in a new one. And you should also take a look at your sleeping position. If you sleep on your stomach, your neck and head may twist to the side. Try sleeping on your back with a pillow underneath your knees or on your side with a pillow between them.

Advocate for helpful technology and training.

Monster.com suggests looking for an employer that offers technology and training designed to reduce the likelihood of a work-related injury or advocate for these helpful changes in your workplace. These can include portable lifts, transfer technology, an injury-prevention program and an ergonomics specialist who evaluates nurses’ work environment.

Treat yourself.

Soaking in a warm bath not only feels like a treat – it can help relax tense muscles. And getting a massage can reduce pain and improve your flexibility and range of motion, scrubsmag.com says.

Consider changing your specialty.

Chronic back or neck problems may be helped if you change specialties. Monster.com cites an example of one nurse who changed from trauma nursing to the cath lab. Since many trauma patients are unconscious, they’re unable to help with being turned over or moving from a bed to a stretcher. In the cath lab, patients can usually be moved by sliding them over, and the work is less stressful, causing less tension in your back.

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