Caring for the caregiver: Chiropractic & Massage
Guest writers, Dr. Rick Houlgrave, Chiropractor and registered massage therapist, Sean Murphy, provide easy-to-use strategies and tips to manage the stresses of caregiving, both physically and emotionally.
Being a successful caregiver doesn’t just require conscientious care for the one you are looking after, but also requires looking after your own health. Caregiving often involves physically demanding tasks.
Doing these tasks in a way that minimizes stress on your body can prevent injuries and allow you to stay healthy so that you can continue to care for others.
Here are a few simple suggestions for proper body mechanics that can help you avoid injuries.
- Wear flat soled shoes with sufficient arch supports.
- When standing, for stability and strength, stand with a straight back and feet a bit wider then shoulder width apart.
- When walking, keep your back straight.
- While helping a person to walk, walk beside them with one arm around their back and the other at your side, ready to help the person if needed.
- Sit on a firm chair with a straight back. You should be balanced on your ‘sit bones.’ If your chair does not have a lumbar support you can make one using a rolled up towel or pillow.
- To ease your back when sitting for a long period of time, make use of a stool or ottoman. You can also perform pelvic tilting exercises to gently mobilize your lower back.
- To avoid slouching when performing crafts or reading, make use of pillows on your lap to bring your work closer to you without straining your arms or neck.
- For prolonged sitting or car rides, be sure to adjust your chair to suit you and take frequent breaks to prevent your back from seizing up.
- Injury prevention is as important as proper body mechanics. To lift safely, follow a few basic principles.
- Lift with your legs, not with your back.
- When bending down to lift something, face the object you are lifting and bend your legs (i.e., your hips and knees) while keeping your back straight.
- Hold what you are lifting close to your body and lift with your legs, not your back.
- When turning, rotate your entire body, not just your back.
- If you are unsure if you are able to lift an object, get someone to help you.
- There are many devices available to help carry or move heavy objects. If you need help using a device, ask someone who has experience to show you how to use it properly.
Pushing a wheelchair:
- Make sure handles are at a good height for you to push without bending forward.
- Keep your back straight (anyone notice a theme here?).
- Your feet should be shoulder width apart for sturdiness while in the standing position.
- Lower your body to get close to the object. Bend from your hips and knees. Don’t bend at the waist.
- To manoeuvre a wheelchair forward or backward, keep your back straight and use your body weight.
- If the object or person you are pulling or pushing is too heavy, ask someone to help you.
Caregiving can be physically demanding. Practising these tips will develop good habits which will allow you to maintain your health, and continue helping your family member/client for a long time.
If you have any questions regarding body care, contact Dr. Rick Houlgrave at 250-339-2100 or at www.comoxchiropractor.com or Sean Murphy at 250-941-8181 or at www.ValleyHealingMassage.com. We would be happy to provide more information or help develop a personalized program for your specific needs.