As we enter the season of changing our regular habits of eating, sleeping, drinking and exercise, I thought I would spend a few moments on tending to our bodies. Specifically our backs.
When I became a New Yorker in the Spring of 2000, I didn’t know how I would stay fit. I left my Vermont life of hiking, gardening, chopping wood, shoveling snow, all the daily life activities that kept my body moving.
So I took up running. I didn’t invest in good running shoes and I ran on the concrete sidewalks of the city. Eventually my back began to hurt. I switched to working out with Billy Blanks Tae Bo kickboxing videos (remember Tae Bo?) in my studio apartment, but my downstairs neighbor complained about the stomping. (My kicks landed hard.)
This is when I discovered Pilates and fell in love with the ease with which it took me out of pain and kept me fit. Eventually, I became a Pilates coach. At the time, I didn’t think about how it could benefit nurses or nursing care. Not until, I found myself needing to assist a patient with a fresh back surgery who needed turning. Without thinking I engaged my core, and then I told her how to as well. Together, she and I moved with ease and without pain.
She was thrilled to discover she could do this for herself and later she told me she started teaching the other caregivers how to help her–and themselves!
Why this matters
Reported in the ANA Handle with Care Fact Sheet, research on the impact of musculoskeletal injuries among nurses:
- 52 percent complain of chronic back pain
- 12 percent of nurses “leaving for good” because of back pain as main contributory factor
- 20% transferred to a different unit, position, or employment because of lower back pain, 12 percent considering leaving profession
- 38 percent suffered occupational-related back pain severe enough to require leave from work and
- 6 percent, 8 percent, and 11 percent of RNs reported even changing jobs for neck, shoulder and back problems, respectively.
These statistics are from 2000. But a 2015 National Public Radio report on nursing injuries found this continues with dire consequences for nurses who are injured.
Core Stability Breathing isn’t the only thing needed to keep you, your colleagues, staff and patients safe from injury. It’s bigger than this.
Still, you can help your back by using a breathing technique that activates your pelvic-abdominal muscles so your back doesn’t doesn’t take all the stress or strain of the many things you do during your day.
Here is a brief (under 5 minutes) video introducing you to Core Stability Breathing.
I’ll also tell you how core stability breathing helped another patient who was desperate to go home, but the team wouldn’t discharge her until she could stand on her own.
Take a few minutes now to practice the exercise in this video and also think about how you can use this to help your staff, colleagues and patients.
Screening for a Pilates Instructor
If you think you’d like to explore working with a Pilates instructor near you, there are some important do’s and don’ts.
Do make sure the instructor was certified by a 400-600 hour certification program. Not a weekend instructor training, not “I’ve studied Pilates as a student and think I can show you what to do”.
Do ask about their training, their mentors, how long they have been teaching, and did they do an apprenticeship? They should be able to speak about their Pilates lineage and why the method works.
Don’t take a group class–especially to start. This is essential for anyone who has an injury, pain or is physically fragile. Pilates is about precision and your body, each time you show up for a lesson. You want one:one coaching so you can get that individualized and safe instruction.
I hope you take a few minutes each day practicing the core stability breathing, keeping your mind on your body and your back safe.
Do you have questions? Let me know what they are by replying to this email!
With much love and appreciation for all you do every day in caring for yourself, so you can do the work you love in caring for others.