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Back pain: The nurse pandemic

It only takes one wrong move, one poor lift, one bad twist. And in a split-second — boom — you’ve injured your back.

Back pain is one of the most common causes of pain in the world, with 80% of people likely to experience at least one episode of acute back pain in their lifetime. In the U.S., approximately 25% of the population report having had at least one day of lower-back pain within the past three months. And lower-back pain is the fifth leading cause for physician visits.

The incidence of back pain in nurses is even more prevalent. Registered nurses and nursing assistants are among the top six occupations at greatest risk for musculoskeletal injury. According to data collected by the American Nurses Association, a little more than half of nurses report chronic back pain. 12% of the nursing workforce reported chronic back pain as a factor in leaving the profession.

Preventing back injury

In 2004, the ANA launched their Handle With Care campaign to increase nursing awareness of back injury and prevention. Their strongest recommendation is for the use of patient handling equipment and devices to decrease the need for nurses to perform tasks requiring heavy lifting.

When back injury happens

Of course analgesics are an essential component of pain treatment. But typically, a combination of treatments is necessary, and finding the right combination for each individual takes some degree of trial and error. Finding a health care provider who can assist you in developing a successful pain treatment plan for your unique needs is your best bet. Remember, you might need someone to help take care of you for a change!

Some of the interventions that have shown promise in the literature include:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Spinal manipulation
  • Nerve blocks, epidural steroid injections
  • Heat application
  • Firm mattress
  • Acupuncture
  • TENS: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
  • Intradiscal electrothermal therapy
  • Surgical repairs (often last resort and with varying success rates)
  • CBT (including relaxation and biofeedback)
  • Guided imagery
  • Yoga
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Tai chi

If you’ve injured your back, don’t give up in your quest to rehabilitate yourself to health. Addressing factors such as stress, depression, anxiety and sleep disturbance are just as important as the physiological components.

Here are some further resources for you to explore:

Back and chronic pain resources

ANA Handle with care fact sheet

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: How can back pain be treated?

Practice Guidelines for Chronic Pain Management

The American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) Resource Guide to Chronic Pain Management and Treatment

By | 2020-04-15T16:39:00-04:00 April 27th, 2015|Categories: Archived|3 Comments

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