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Keeping our Nurses Healthy: Preventing Back Sprains and Strains

by Geoffrey WolfeLeave a Comment

Nursing is a tough, physically demanding job and the data proves it. There were over 33,000 soft tissue injuries sustained by nursing professionals in 2013. The average number of days lost was 8. For those counting, that’s a total of 264,000 days of lost time, valuable time, spent inactive and unable to perform.

xray lower back painIn 2006, it was reported that low back pain (LBP) costs exceeded $100 billion dollars, two-thirds of which was attributed to lost time and productivity. And the need for nursing professionals is growing, rapidly. The bureau of labor statistics estimates a growth rate of 16% per year through the next decade, the average rate of growth is 7%. This means there will be an additional 500,000 nurses going to work for our country and putting themselves at risk for injury.

As the rate of obesity in America steadily climbs, so too does the nurse’s exposure to risk of workplace musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs). There are multiple strategies that can be implemented to mitigate these risks including engineering and administrative controls, training, management and employee support.

A few interventions Athletico offers include:

  • Quality comprehensive health and wellness programs that focuses on the nutrition, fitness and lifestyle choices of the nursing staff is an effective option as it improves the ability for the body to perform at optimal levels day in and day out.
  • Full body stretch and flex program performed before, during and after a shift is effective in triggering cardiovascular nutrient tissue delivery, improving joint flexibility and stability and increasing mental acuity, thus improving performance and reducing risk of injury.
  • Safe lift technique training, focusing on the techniques, postures and body mechanics that limit the strain placed on the body during heavy lifts.

While fitness, healthy lifestyle and lift technique programs are necessary and helpful, it is unreasonable to expect heavy and near maximal effort lifts so frequently without eventually breaking down, regardless of fitness level, lifestyle or lifting technique.

Limits should be set on the maximal amount of weight handled and on the frequency and duration one is exposed to these physical demands.

In addition to employee support programs, many hospital systems are using tools to reduce the impact of these extreme physical demands. These ergonomic controls reduce the frequency and severity of injuries.  In fact, reductions in soft tissue injuries upwards of 80% are being seen in hospitals across the country by simply implementing these lift assist devices in conjunction with safe lift training programs. And in the event an injury does occur, they’re far less serious, reducing or eliminating lost time and the need for replacement staff.

Implementing employee centric wellness programs and utilizing advances in technology is the most cost effective approach in improving patient care and containing the costs. The return on investment can rise to millions per year.

Click here to get more information about Athletico’s Wellness at Work programs, including Ergonomic Assessments.

If you would like a complimentary injury screen, or to request an appointment with your local Athletico physical therapy clinic, click the button below to get started.

Click to Request an Appointment Today


Number, incidence rate, and median days away from work for nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work and musculoskeletal disorders by selected worker occupation and ownership, Bureau of Labor Statistics 2013

Katz JN. Lumbar disc disorders and low-back pain: socioeconomic factors and consequences [review]. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2006;88(suppl 2): 21-24.

National Institutes of Health. Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults: The evidence report. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; September 1998. NIH Publication No. 98–4083.

Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review BMJ 2002; 325  doi: (Published 31 August 2002)

A comprehensive analysis of low-back disorder risk and spinal loading during the transferring and repositioning of patients using different techniques: W. S. MARRAS*, K. G. DAVIS, B. C. KIRKING and P. K. BERTSCHE. ERGONOMICS, 1999, VOL. 42, NO. 7, 904 ± 926

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

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