Healthy Back Habits for Caregivers
Taking Care of Your Spine
Many adults spend a considerable portion of their week caring for aging parents, relatives, friends, or other adults. According to the results of a recent study, the stresses and strains of providing care to an ill loved one may take a considerable toll on the mental and physical health of caregivers—including their back and spine health.
The study, “Physical and mental health among caregivers: findings from a cross-sectional study of Open University students in Thailand,” was published online ahead of print in December 2012. It appears in the journal BMC Public Health.
The researchers state that the health needs of caregivers often go unnoticed. Their study was conducted on a sample of adult caregivers in Thailand; however, their results suggest a need for ways to improve the physical and mental health of caregivers all around the world.
How the Study Was Conducted
The study authors looked at data on 60,569 people collected via questionnaire in 2009. Caregivers were asked questions about their caregiving status (full-time or part-time), demographic information, and their overall health, including their mental and physical health.
What the Researchers Found
Of the individuals included in the final results, 27.5% reported being part-time caregivers, while 6.6% provided care full-time. The results of the study showed slightly different results for men and women.
Men who were caregivers (either full-time or part-time) had a higher chance of lower back pain and poor psychological health than men who were not caregivers. Women who were part-time or full-time caregivers were also more likely to experience lower back pain and psychological distress; however, unlike men, female caregivers had poorer self-assessed health than women who were not caregivers.
The study suggests that adult caregivers may sustain physical and mental health problems as a result of their work, and that low back pain is a common concern for caregivers.
Many healthcare fields require their workers to go through extensive training to help protect their back and spine when lifting, moving, and working with patients.
However, at-home caregivers may not realize the stresses that their informal “job” plays on their back health. Make sure to use proper lifting techniques: our back care for nurses article provides helpful tips for reducing back injuries when moving or lifting patients. Even if you are not a nurse, the guidelines in this article can help you reduce lower back pain.
Additionally, gentle back exercises and stretches can help you deal with lower back pain. Check out our back pain exercises and stretches article for ideas about how to get started. Don’t forget to talk to your doctor first before starting a new exercise routine, and ask him or her about ways to improve your mental health, along with your physical health.