CARING FOR THE CARERS
Mind your posture – carers, care for your backs
There are currently around 6.5 million carers in the UK with the figure set to rise to 9 million by 2037. For many carers physical activity such as lifting is a significant part of their daily routine. However, not all carers will be aware of their back health when looking after someone.
Although paid carers may receive training on how to protect their backs during the physical aspects of their work, many unpaid carers, of which there are 5.8 million in England and Wales2, may not receive any training or information about back care.
Golden rules for carers
Think ahead – assess each situation and look for the best and easiest way to achieve the desired result, this may mean using any available equipment whether it be for specialist lifting or a simple sack barrow for moving boxes of supplies
Follow the weight – always try and face the direction in which you want to carry any weight your body is strongest when you are square on to the weight.
Take care when lifting – never lift while twisting from the waist. Bend your knees, try to have a relaxed, straight back and if possible, brace your abdominal muscles. For added stability make sure that your feet are about a shoulder width or more apart before lifting
Be patient with beginners in your group and remember how scary it was when you first started. Make sure someone skis ahead and also behind them and again, take regular breaks throughout the run. Beginners are more prone to falls and injuries if they feel pressured to keep up. Remember also that they are using new muscles, are much more tense and so will tire more quickly.
Ask for training – whether you are caring in a formal setting or helping someone at home, make sure you have been properly trained in how to use any equipment
Supportive shoes are essential – wear good, soft-soled shoes that are supportive and have a good grip on the ground
Take regular breaks – if doing a repetitive task, take a break every 20 minutes and do some simple stretches to relax your muscles.
Carers – Straighten Up
Carers spend long periods of time on their feet and put a lot of strain on their bodies, from lifting and assisting the person they are caring for, to moving equipment. Even though our bodies are very well adapted to a variety of tasks, carers need to be particularly careful not to overload themselves and put their backs at risk.
“Formal care settings should have lifting and moving equipment available and staff should always make sure that they have been trained in the proper use of all equipment. Home carers should make sure they receive home assessments for the person they are caring for as equipment can be loaned out – this will require appropriate training for proper use.
A very simple three minute exercise routine entitled ‘Straighten Up UK’ from the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has developed which is really easy to incorporate into daily life to help strengthen the spine and improve posture. The exercise routine can be seen below.