Chronic spine pain and low back pain are problems that are affecting the majority of workers in the healthcare setting. According to a study, it is the most prevalent health problem among healthcare personnel in Europe and the United States. Moreover, the prevalence of lifetime spine and back pain among healthcare workers between 30 and 49 years is nearly 67%. Several risk factors contribute to this serious health problem, and iwithout taking measures to prevent them from occurring, it could result in a diminished quality of life or early career change. In some cases, it may lead to loss of employment and income due to disability.
If you are a healthcare worker, you are likely among millions currently suffering from back pain and spine problems. Do not endure the pain in silence– instead, take active steps to prioritize everyone’s health in your workplace and discuss the importance of communication. Here is how to advocate for your spinal health in a healthcare setting.
Request Ergonomic Furniture
The global pandemic has tested the limits of every healthcare worker, and many were on the verge of throwing in the towel after long shifts and taking on heavy workloads with only minutes of rest in between. Still, despite the challenges, nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers continued to monitor and administer care to patients. Apart from getting sick, many workers began to experience aches and pains that plague them today.
According to a study published in Frontiers in Public Health, 50% to 80% of nurses globally experienced occupational low back pain due to lumbar strain and elevated spinal pressure during the pandemic. Low back pain can be dangerous for nurses and patients, since it can affect nurses’ working ability and reduce their mobility. Prevention can be an essential step to stop back pain from occurring or worsening, and one way to prevent lower back pain and spine problems is by switching to ergonomic furniture.
According to Dr. Brandon Claflin of Oklahoma, using ergonomic furniture, such as an ergonomic chair, can help to alleviate back or spine pain. Considering that nurses stand or sit for a long time while assisting in the operating room or walking throughout the unit, requesting replacement ergonomic chairs in this area and near work areas can help promote better spine health and guard against lower back pain.
Place ergonomic chairs at the nurses’ station, reception area, billing departments, and other places where nurses and other hospital staff perform administrative tasks. Doing so enables healthcare workers to be pain-free while responding to inquiries, giving information or referrals, or coordinating patient care responsibilities.
Form Partnerships to Gain Access to the Right Gear
Since most healthcare workers are always on their feet, they must wear comfortable and supportive footwear for ease of movement and to prevent pain. But apart from preventing foot and leg pain, the right shoes can also prevent the development of sciatica or lower back pain while working in healthcare settings.
In most cases, having flat feet can result in back pain and wearing footwear that has zero cushioning and support. Medical experts warn against wearing shoes that are too flexible, such as soft ballerina flats, since they can increase stress throughout the legs, hips, and lower back. Instead, healthcare workers should look for shoes with midsole cushioning and ample support around the heel to prevent back and spine pain.
Some companies such as Adidas, Nike, Asics, and Under Armour have formed partnerships with the healthcare industry and are offering proper footwear to medical workers for a discounted price. Meanwhile, other brands, such as Crocs, have supplied frontline healthcare workers with free footwear in certain parts of the world since the beginning of the pandemic.
If discounts or free footwear are unavailable in your area, encourage management to partner with local footwear retailers. The benefits go both ways since retailers will gain a positive image while they make a meaningful contribution to your community. Meanwhile, healthcare workers will gain access to the gear they need at a lower price to prevent back and spine pain from affecting their work.
Suggest Programs and Facilities That can Help to Reduce Stress
Recent studies show that around 30-50% of healthcare workers globally have experienced work-related stress over the past three years. Stress not only results in tdeveloping a host of mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression, but it can also worsen or even cause back and spine pain.
Stress management programs should be in place in healthcare settings to improve medical workers’ overall well-being. Consider suggesting low-cost programs or workplace activities, such as guided meditation breaks in the afternoon or 15-minute guided tai-chi exercises in the morning. Since working out can also benefit mental health and relieve back pain, hospital management may encourage workers to exercise more by providing a gym or a yoga studio for healthcare workers.
Other stress-reducing programs that healthcare settings should implement include providing a restful place for taking breaks. This area should have adjustable lighting, inviting seating or lounging places, calming sounds (via hidden speakers that play soft music or nature sounds), and soothing scents so that healthcare workers can recharge their bodies and minds. Be mindful of the sensitivities of patients by ensuring the scents are not too close to patient rooms.
Creating a garden can also help to melt away stress. Studies have shown that being in nature can relieve anxiety, ease stress, and improve focus, so it may be a good idea to encourage management to hire a professional landscaper to work on the project. The garden should have natural and vibrant greenery, places to sit, and space to walk around. Adding water features, small sculptures, and strategic lighting can enhance the relaxing vibe of the space. In addition, a relaxing garden could benefit visiting family members when coping with stressful diagnoses.
Healthcare workers are more likely to experience back pain and spine problems than other employees. Advocating for your spinal health can help to reduce pain, improve your work performance, and enhance your overall quality of life.