This year’s Back Care Awareness week aims to highlight how back pain affects carers. Britain has over 7 million carers who look after loved ones for free, saving the NHS £119 billion a year! Caring for someone who is ill or infirm puts a huge strain on you, mentally and physically. This includes a much higher risk of back pain than the general population. Many of our best customers are carers for someone they love. If this is you we’d like to celebrate Back Care Awareness by giving you some tips on how to care for yourself as well as others.
Are you lifting safely? Make sure you know these 5 tips to avoid injury!
A 2003 study of nursing assistants and lower back pain found it was more severe among those who often had to re-position patients. The strongest factor was whether the nurses had relatives that they cared for at home. Both of these factors are a result of having to care for someone alone – a fact of life for most unpaid carers.
If you have ended up caring for someone through circumstance rather than as a career, it’s quite likely that you've never learned how to lift safely. This causes a huge risk of injury and back pain. Over 70% of the UK’s carers suffer from back pain and this is a big factor.
Lifting safely involves more than the old advice to ‘lift with your knees, not your back’. Try to follow these lifting tips from the British Chiropractic Association:
- Think before you do: Before you attempt a task, decide what would be the easiest way. This can help you avoid unnecessary accidents!
- Follow the weight: Avoid twisting while you lift; this is very dangerous! Make sure you are facing the direction you're going in before starting to lift.
- Brace yourself: When lifting, keep your feet shoulder width apart, bend your knees, keep your back straight but relaxed and try to brace your abdominal muscles. This will give you a strong foundation to lift from.
- No fancy footwear: Your shoes should be supportive with soft soles that have lots of grip.
- Take a break: It can be hard to find time for breaks when you are a carer, it’s so important! Try to have a rest and stretch every 20 minutes to avoid muscle strain.
If you would like more information on lifting properly, try contacting your local council or GP. They can do a carer’s assessment and give you help in learning practical skills.
The hidden cause of chronic back pain in carers
A result from the 2003 back pain study that may surprise you is that severe back pain was related to high levels of stress. This included having a lack of social support and working in an unpleasant or hectic environment. Most of us assume that back pain is purely a physical problem. However, psychological stress will make your pain more severe and difficult to recover from.
Physical and mental health are tied to each other. You're doing a fantastic thing by caring for your loved one but it’s important not to forget to care for yourself! You may not have even noticed your stress levels increasing if you are busy with caring. If you have been suffering from symptoms like back pain, headaches, depression or insomnia then you need to find ways to de-stress. Your council may be able to help you get respite care for your loved one so that you can take a break. It's possible to reduce your stress levels in just a few minutes a day.
Our top 5 ways to find some ‘me time’ when you’re a carer
Being an unpaid carer is an extremely busy lifestyle which can lead to high levels of stress. It’s a good idea to get some time for yourself every day, even just for 10 minutes. We’ve got some great ideas on how to fit little moments of relaxation into your day:
- Meditation: Mindfulness meditation has been found to be as effective as counselling in treating stress and back pain. You can learn how to meditate at home using an app or book. Just 10 minutes a day can make you feel calmer and happier by changing the way your brain reacts to stress.
- Aromatherapy: Essential oils can help to relieve stress and tension. Several studies have been done on its effect on nurses. They showed that it reduces anxiety and fatigue even in emergency departments. By using an aroma diffuser at home you can help both you and the person you care for feel more relaxed.
- Write a diary: If you are unable to afford or fit in counselling sessions then try writing a diary for a few minutes a day. Written emotional disclosure – writing about the things you feel most stressed about – has been shown to significantly improve both mental and physical health. Writing things down may help you to express and work through things you don’t feel comfortable talking about.
- Exercise: When you're already exhausted from caring for someone, exercising is probably the last thing you want to do. However, regular exercise will actually help to give you more energy as well as strengthening your back. If you are unable to leave your home, try doing some yoga or stretching for a few minutes a day. The endorphins released when you exercise will make you feel happier and less stressed.
- Self-Massage: Massage has a positive effect on both mind and body. A quick massage will release muscle tension and pain as well as being wonderfully relaxing. The Bac Dual Action Roller Massager allows you to give yourself a deep tissue massage while enjoying your favourite essential oil.