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Carers, look after your back

When you're caring for someone, you may find that some of the activities this involves may be taking a toll on your back. If you regularly lift the person you care for, or help with a wheelchair for example, you may be putting your back at risk.

You may not be able to change the daily activities that you need to do to help the person you care for. However, there are several things you can do to help protect your back and keep your muscles strong.

Exercises for low back pain by Bupa UK

Details

  • Practical ways to prevent back pain Practical ways to prevent back pain

    If you're pushing or lifting, it's important to prepare your back to stop you straining or pulling any muscles. When lifting, make sure that you bend your knees and keep the weight of the person close to your body. Try not to twist your spine but let it move as it needs to. If you can, distribute the weight you’re carrying evenly in your hands.

    Whenever you sit down, be it in the car, on the sofa, or at the dinner table, it's important to sit up straight. This is to stop yourself from slouching. Be sure to let your chair take your weight and make sure that the back of it is supporting your body.

    Driving can trigger back pain, particularly if you're behind the wheel for long distances. If you're driving to appointments or running some errands, adjust your seat before you set off so that you’re not straining to reach the wheel or pedals. A lumbar roll placed in the small of your back can also help support your back. Wear comfortable, flat shoes to help stop cramp and minimise any pressure on your ankles. Try to keep your shoulders loose and relaxed.

    Depending on the nature of the care you do, repetitive activities and movements can cause pain. So can staying in the same position for too long, so it's important to take a break regularly.

  • How to manage your back pain How to manage your back pain

    Keep active

    Many people think that if you've hurt your back then you need to rest up. You may be thinking that you don’t have time to stop and rest. The good news is that keeping active will actually help your back. Bed rest can cause your muscles to weaken, so it’s important to stay active. Exercising may make your back feel a bit sore at first. However, activities such as walking can help strengthen your back muscles and increase your flexibility.

    Remedies

    Hot and cold packs may help ease and soothe your back pain. You can buy hot and cold packs that are specifically designed to relieve pain from most pharmacies. A hot water bottle and some frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel will be just as effective. Don't apply ice directly to your skin though as it can damage it.

    Over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, can help ease your pain. Always read the patient information that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.

    Lie on your side

    Try to sleep in a position that won't put excess stress on your back – such as sleeping on your front with your neck twisted. Instead, try to sleep on your side.

    Pain management

    If you've had back pain for a long time, you may find that a pain management programme can help. If you care full-time, this may not be an option for you. The sessions aim to help you learn about the emotional and physical factors that contribute to your pain and find methods to deal with them. Speak to your doctor who can help arrange your sessions, or you may want to try a self-help group for further support.

  • Five exercises for your back Five exercises for your back

    Exercises for low back pain by Bupa UKThe following exercises are designed to help strengthen your back and only take a few minutes to complete.

    • Gently bring your shoulders up to your ears and then let them lower. Repeat 10 times.
    • Bend forward and let your head and arms hang loosely over your knees. You should feel this in your lower back. Hold for a few seconds before bringing your body back up slowly.
    • Lie on your back with your arms above your head. Bring your knees up but keep your feet on the ground. Slowly and gently drop your knees to one side and turn your head in the opposite direction. Hold for 10 seconds before bringing your knees back up to the centre. Repeat three times on each side.
    • Stand facing a wall and place one palm against it for support. Bend one leg at the knee so that it's up behind you. Use your other hand to hold it there for 10 seconds. Repeat this three times with each leg.
    • Kneel on all fours with your back straight and hold your stomach in. Hold the position and raise one arm out in front of you. It's important that you don’t twist your body and keep your pelvis level. Hold for 10 seconds, and then repeat with the other arm. Try to do 10 of each arm.

    Click on the image to open our infographic of exercises for low back pain.

     

     

     

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    Produced by Natalie Heaton, Bupa Health Information Team, October 2013. 

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