Back Stretches and Exercises for Nurses with Back Issues — Part 1
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 46% of all nursing-related injuries are due to overexertion and 25% are due to slips and falls. This results all too often in back injuries and cumulative trauma disorders to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems caused by repetitive motions, overuse, and strain.
Tell me something I don’t already know!
As if we need any government agency to tell us how the job breaks down our bodies. Nurses know all too well how hard our job is physically.
And since our health is often a low-priority for our administrators, we have to take care of ourselves and each other. Over the next few months, NursePower Empowers Nurses! is going to focus on taking care of your back.
We got your back — literally!
From herniated discs to sciatica to muscle pulls and all the aches and pains that plague us daily, we need to take better care of our backs. So here are some simple stretches you can do daily to take care of your spine and strengthen your core muscles. This series is especially for nurses with injuries, such as a herniated disc. As always, check with your doctor before performing anything following a severe injury.
However, they will help the rest of us better avoid such injuries in the future.
Spine-Strengthening Stretch #1: Standing Overhead Reach
This simple stretch helps realign your spine and ease pressure on your herniated disk. You can do this multiple times throughout the day to ease pain and strengthen your supporting muscles.
Step 1: Stand up tall with good posture.
Step 2: Reach your hands above your head, stretching towards the ceiling. This is good for your lower and middle spine.
Step 3: Hold for 2-3 seconds and then lower your arms
Step 4: Repeat 8-10 times.
Spine-Strengthening Stretch #2: Neck Stretches
This stretch can be performed from either a standing or sitting position. It is important, however, to maintain good posture with your shoulders back — don’t slouch or you may make your neck pain worse.
Step 1: Bend your head forward, trying to touch your chin to your chest. The movement should be in your neck, not your waist. Return to neutral position.
Step 2: Bend your head backwards, trying to look up at the ceiling. The movement should be in your neck and not your lower back. Return to neutral position
Step 3: Roll your left ear towards your left shoulder. The movement should be in your neck and not your torso. Return to neutral position.
Step 4: Roll your right ear towards your right shoulder. The movement should be in your neck and not your torso. Return to neutral position.
If you perform this stretch from a standing position, reach your fingers to the floor without slouching your shoulders. This will maximize your neck stretches and keep you from hunching your shoulders.
Spine-Strengthening Stretch #3: Back Flexion Stretch
This stretch is performed on the floor and you’ll need either a padded rug or yoga mat — you don’t want to perform this on a hardwood or tile floor without some padding. A folded bath towel will work if you don’t have a yoga mat.
Step 1: Lie on your back with your legs straight and your arms out to the side.
Step 2: Raise both knees to your chest and clasp with your hands.
Step 3: Raise your head towards your knees so there is a comfortable stretch across your middle and lower back.
Step 4: Repeat 3-5 times
Spine-Strengthening Stretch #4: Press Up
The press up is a lower-intensity version of the cobra stretch frequently seen in yoga routines. If your back feels strong, you can move into a cobra position, but until then, start with the press up position and move slowly.
This is also a floor exercise so you will want a carpeted surface, yoga mat, or folded bath towel.
Step 1: Lie face down on your stomach with your hands below your shoulders and your elbows tucked against your sides.
Step 2: Slowly raise your upper body until it is supported on your elbows. Keep your hips on the floor. Be careful not to raise your upper body so high that it causes you pain. You should feel a stretch along your spine.
Step 3: Hold the press up position for 5 seconds. Word yourself up to a 30-second hold over time.
Step 4: Lower your upper body back to the floor.
Step 5: Repeat 5-10 times depending on your comfort level.
NursePower Empowers Nurses!
Taking care of your spine will reduce your daily aches and pains. Reducing or eliminating those pains will help you enjoy your job more. And when you enjoy your job more, you take care of your patients better. That’s the goal, right? We all became nurses so we could take care of people.
As nurses, we’re pretty darn great at taking care of other people. But we often stink at taking care of ourselves.
NursePower Empowers Nurses! is all about helping you take better care of yourself. We share the tips and strategies you need because we know you’re too busy to go hunt them down yourself.
We got your back, now and always.