5 Ways to Protect Your Back on the Job

Melissa Mills
August 10, 2022
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Being a CNA is a physical job. You’re on your feet for long hours and do lots of pushing, pulling, and lifting. Unfortunately, all this time and labor can leave you at risk of back injuries. While we’ve all been through in-services about back safety, it’s easy to forget the tips you’ve learned or never put them into practice. 

Back health is one of those things we don’t give much thought to until it’s gone. But that’s a risky game that could leave you missing work, hurting all the time, or needing serious treatments. 

Here are a few easy work habits you can use today to keep your back healthy and happy.

Avoid Overuse and Repetitive Movements

You’ll do many tasks over and over again. When you do the same things, it can wear on your muscles and weaken them. If you notice twinge-type pains in your back or running down your legs that make it difficult to stand after sitting, you should start rethinking how you work. You can ask for help with tasks that strain your muscles or try changing movements when completing repetitive tasks. 

Something as simple as lowering supplies from the top shelf to a middle rack or taking the time to raise the bed to a more comfortable height can save your back and prevent injuries. If your facility has a therapy department, you might ask your nurse manager if a therapist can observe you while working and offer suggestions to keep you safe. 

Use Good Body Mechanics When Lifting or Bending

You’ve probably heard that you should lift with your legs and not your back. Or, maybe you’ve seen pictures indicating the same thing. While it might seem like a simple task, it makes a big difference. Here’s what you need to know when lifting heavy objects:

  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart with one foot slightly ahead of the other 
  • Bend at the hips and knees only 
  • Look straight ahead and keep your back straight and shoulders back 
  • Lift slowly by straightening your hips and knees, not your back
  • Don’t twist as you lift
  • Change direction with your feet and keep your shoulders over your hips
  • Bend with the knees and hips when setting down the heavy object
  • Always get help when lifting or moving residents or patients

Apply Heat and Cold Therapy

After a long day, ease any discomfort with a warm bath or compress. The heat helps relax the muscles in your lower back and can relieve many aches and pains. You can also alternate heat and cold packs if both treatments bring you relief. 

Strengthen Your Core with Exercises

You’re at a greater risk of injury when the muscles in your core are weak.  You can reduce your risk of injury by doing core-strengthening exercises. If you’re unsure how to get started exercising, have pre-existing injuries, or have pain slowing you down, be sure to see your doctor immediately and before beginning any exercise or treatments on your own. 

Wear Supportive Shoes

You’re on your feet for long hours, and while you might wonder what your feet have to do with your back - the type of shoes you wear matters. Choose shoes that are lightweight and comfortable. You should also find a pair that offer ankle and back support and are slip resistant. If you have any special needs, like having a wide foot, bunions, or other issues, check with your doctor or podiatrist about the best shoes for your needs.

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