How Nurses Can Lower The Risk of Work-Related Back Injury

By Subodh / February 28, 2014

Nurses who work in a hospital setting suffer from the physical demands of their work; however, many people are unaware of how dangerous this occupation is. In fact, most people are surprised to find out that nursing is the riskiest occupation for back injuries, more so than construction workers and warehouse personnel.

Nursing tops the list of occupation as the most prone to work-related musculoskeletal disorders. The main culprits behind these work-related injuries are the incorrect lifting or transfer methods. Nurses’ backs bear the burden of their jobs. Changing a patient’s position, from lying to sitting, and the quick movements required to keep a patient from falling may also cause back injuries. Nurses cannot completely avoid these motions; however, there are ways to lower the risk of a career-ending back pain.


The Truth About Back Injuries In Nursing

Registered Nurses are ranked fifth among those who are at risk for back strains and sprains. They even ranked higher than construction workers. In fact, many nurses have considered leaving their job due to its physical demands. Those working in intensive care unit have the highest rate of low back pain injuries. Based on the studies conducted, 58% of ICU nurses are suffering from a debilitating low back pain. According to the worker’s compensation attorneys at, nurses have the highest rate of back-related worker’s compensation claims of any industry.

Most nurses who suffer from back injuries are capable of doing normal activities after a few days; however, in 7% of these cases, the pain worsens and persists limiting the daily activities and work done by the nurse. As a nurse, the best thing you can do is to find ways to lower the risk of disabilities and to prevent causation of this type of injury.

Tips To Avoid Back Injuries

Use Proper Body Mechanics: When lifting, you should bend at your knees. Use your legs and not your back, says Howell, an orthopedic spine specialist. If you are about to transfer a patient, you should use transfer boards and ask for assistance from a colleague. As an additional tip, you should keep patients or objects you’re lifting as close to your midsections as possible. Keep your back in neutral position, preserving your spine’s natural curves. The best way to do this is to bend or hinge from the hips when bending forward or lifting.

Exercise Regularly: You should always stay in shape. If possible, you should maintain muscle strength and flexibility. It is advisable to consult with a physical therapist to know about proper mechanics and learn about proper lifting techniques. You could also inquire about what type of exercise could help prevent back injuries.

Wear Proper Shoes: As a nurse, you will be on your feet for long periods, standing and walking on hard floors. This could put stress on your back. Therefore, you need to wear comfortable shoes that could absorb the shock.

How To Reduce Workplace Injuries

Hospitals can also take necessary precautions to prevent or reduce workplace injuries. Here’s how:

  • Use lifting assistance devices. There are various devices available that can help nurses in lifting and moving patients. These devices should be made available to them.
  • Use proper equipments. There are powered equipment available that reduces patient handling activities, such as powered beds that can help in changing the patient’s posture. There are also powered wheelchairs and adjustable chairs.
  • Provide adequate staff. Injuries can be lowered or prevented by increasing the number of staff available to assist with lifting or transferring patients.
  • Offer technology and training to decrease risk of work-related injury. Hospitals should have injury-prevention training and an ergonomics specialist that evaluates the nurse’s work environment.

Kris Hopkins is a registered nurse who is aware of the health hazards of her occupation. In this article, she lists a few tips to lower the risk of back injuries in nursing.