When serving as a caregiver for seniors, there is often a lot of lifting and moving involved and it is important to take care of the lower back. Janna Seiz, a physical therapist from Central Illinois says, “Caregivers often are more concerned about the loved one they are caring for than about themselves. Caregivers can sometimes be persuaded to care for themselves, as they should, by reminding them that if they fail to care for themselves, they will not be able to help their loved one. So caring for themselves is a very necessary part of their caregiving.”
Dr. Lou Graham says that low back pain is a common ailment. Dr. Graham is a physiatrist, which he explains, “Is a mix of orthopedics and neurology, with a rehab focus.”
When caregivers suffer from low back pain, the question is how to deal with it. Dr. Graham says one of the first things to do is decide if the pain requires a visit to the emergency room. The caregiver must decide if they are becoming progressively weaker or paralyzed by this pain. Do they have new bowel or bladder changes associated with the back pain? Do they have lack of sensation when going to the bathroom? If experiencing any of these they should be seen right away to resolve what is causing the issue before progressing with any type of treatment.
Once you have ruled out the acute onset of any permanent neurological damage that will have a long-term effect, your primary care physician can probably determine what is causing the issue. “Most primary care physicians are skilled in evaluating low back pain and will refer you to a specialist when appropriate. If you are not established with a back specialist, I recommend contacting your primary care doctor if your problem is not an emergency,” Dr. Graham recommends.
While the initial instinct is to lie down, it’s better to resist that impulse. Dr. Graham says that keeping moving is key to improvement. “Bed rest is a thing of the past. Work through the symptoms.”
It is important to know this for those that caregivers care for, especially older adults. “After 24 hours rest, get up and move or you risk losing function. The worst thing is to lie in bed for two to three days. You lose muscle mass everyday you lie in bed.”
Once an injury has occurred, Dr. Graham recommends icing the area for the first few days, then alternate ice and heat for a few more days. “Anti-inflammatory medications and Tylenol can help, if not medically contraindicated. Stay active to maintain a range of motion in your back.”
According to Dr. Graham, in most instances, an MRI is not needed, just the treatment mentioned above. Within 3 months, the patient will be better.
To help prevent a back injury from reoccurring, while taking care of patients, Dr. Graham recommends caregivers maintain a range of motion and do core strengthening exercises. “The core abdominal muscles help relieve pressure on the spine. This can be learned in physical therapy. Good core strength can decrease pain in arthritic joints. I also like yoga. It is awesome for both physical and mental health.”
“Look for activities you enjoy to find a way to move that works for you,” Dr. Graham adds.
For those over 50, Dr. Graham recommends to stretch the hip flexors and spine and to strengthen the core. Anti-inflammatory medications, along with ice after an injury, can relieve pain. Topical ointment with 4% lidocaine may also be helpful.
These are just a few ways to keep back pain at bay while caring for others.
Cindy Ladage is farmer’s wife and an award winning columnist for Farm World. Cindy writes for antique tractor and toy magazines, an antique publication and specializes in travel stories for several publications like Senior News &Times of Illinois and more. Cindy’s travel blog is http://travelingadventuresofafarmgirl.com. Join her on twitter at https://twitter.com/cindyladage , Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/cindyladage and facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TravelingAdventuresOfAFarmGirl.