5 Tips For Dealing With Aches and Pains as a Nurse
By: Portia Wofford
Eight to sixteen hours on your feet will cause anyone to be tired and sore at the end of a shift. Add those hours to the strenuous daily activities of nurses, and it's not surprising that nurses are seeking solutions for aches and pains. Nearly 60 percent of nurses report job-related pain or injuries. Here are five tips for dealing with aches and pains as a nurse.
1. Proper form
According to a report by OSHA, back problems are prevalent in nursing. Registered nurses have a higher risk for strains and sprains than construction workers:
- Back-related workers' compensation claims showed that nurses have the highest claim rates of any profession or industry
- Registered nurses ranked fifth among occupations most at risk for strains and sprains
Improper lifting and transferring are two culprits of back problems. Using proper body mechanics is essential to prevent back injury and help reduce the chances of back pain. When lifting, bend at your knees--using your legs--not your back. When bending forward, bend at your hips and not your back as to maintain a neutral spine. Ask for help or use a transfer board when transferring patients.
2. Heat and Ice
At the end of your shift, consider unwinding with a warm bath or shower. Heat improves circulation and blood flow to the area because of the increased temperature. This helps soothe joints and muscles, increases flexibility, and heals damaged tissue. If muscle spasms are your problem, alternate heat with cold packs. Cold numbs, which can reduce pain and tenderness. It also reduces swelling and inflammation.
Consistently stretching is a great way to increase range of motion and relieve stiffness. Regular stretching helps loosen the muscles and gets rid of the existing back and leg pain. It also helps strengthen your muscles--lowering your chances of dealing with pain in the future. Research shows those with chronic pain benefit from stretching:
- Increases circulation and blood flow
- Increases flexibility
- Improves posture
- Relieves pain
- Increases oxygen flow
Use these tips to create a proper stretching program
- Stretch at least once per day
- Make sure you have on comfortable shoes
- Don't manipulate your body into awkward positions
- If stretching is painful, you're doing it wrong
- Slowly move into your stretch
- Start by holding stretches for a short time and gradually building to 30-45 seconds
- Stretch your entire body
- Breathe deeply and relax your body
- Stretch to cool down, not warm-up
- Repeat the stretch
According to Harvard Health Publishing, less flexible muscles restrict joint mobility, which increases the likelihood of sprains and strains; while well-stretched muscles are less prone to injury.
4. Watch your footwork
Wearing high-quality, comfortable shoes is essential. Supportive footwear makes it easy for the rest of your body. Check the soles of your shoes regularly to look for wear and tear. Wear compression socks! They help to prevent sore legs and feet and swelling caused by blood pooling. Replace work shoes every three to six months. Have at least two pairs and rotate them.
An old remedy your Grandma taught you, can help relieve foot pain. Soaking your feet in Epsom salts can ease swelling and inflammation. Take 20 to 30 minutes and let your feet soak in a mixture of warm to hot water and Epsom salts. Adding essential oils, such as peppermint can also help nurses reduce pain.
Ladies (and gents), avoid high heels--even on your off days. We are all tempted to throw on a fashionable pair of stilettos, but numerous studies have shown heels can cause feet, back, and knee problems!
5. Over the counter meds
Over-the-counter medications can help ease pain, discomfort, and inflammation. These meds include
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like aspirin,
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or
- Naproxen (Aleve)
Be cautious when taking these medications as they may interfere with meds you are currently taking. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider before beginning any medication regimen.
Knowing when to use different methods of relieving pains and aches will significantly increase the effectiveness of the treatment. If any technique makes your pain or discomfort worse, stop immediately. If your methods haven’t helped much with regular use in a few days, make an appointment to see your doctor as you may have a more serious, underlying condition.
Portia Wofford is a nurse, content strategist, healthcare writer, entrepreneur, and nano-influencer. Chosen as a brand ambassador or collaborative partner for various organizations, Wofford strives to empower nurses by offering nurses resources for development--while helping healthcare organizations and entrepreneurs create binge-worthy content. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for her latest.