Common Types of Back Injuries Among Healthcare Professionals


The human back is made of muscles, bones, and other forms of tissues, extending from the neck to the pelvis. The back injuries could result from various causes, including the sporting activities, normal chores, and sudden jolts that may result from accidents (Fragala & Bailey, 2003). The primary features of back injuries are trauma, damage, or wear to the back muscles, bones, and other tissues. The common back injuries include the fractured vertebrae, herniated disks, sprains, and strains (Menzel, 2004). While various factors are associated with causing back injuries, occupations and daily chores are often associated with various back injuries. This paper evaluates the common types of back injuries that the healthcare professional suffers during their duty, besides identifying the possible preventive measures and remedies for those injuries. In addition, the paper will outline the common symptoms of the back injuries and support the study through a case study.

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Back Injury Overview in Health Care Professional

It is worth appreciating that the challenges of back injuries are quite common among people, with the healthcare professional suffering higher risks. In fact, in the US, approximately 80% of the adults are expected to suffer from the back injuries in their lifetime, with a significantly high percentage experiencing a repeat of the injuries (Menzel, 2004). Among other professions recording higher likelihood of suffering the risk of back injury are the licensed nurses, the nurses’ aides, health care aides, physical therapists, and the radiology technicians (Menzel, 2004). The CDC (Center for Disease Control) records that approximately 12% of professional nurse practitioners leave the profession for the complications that result from back injuries and the related pain (CDC & NIOSH join to reduce work-related back injuries. 2003). The US nurses have a professional website by the name WINGS (Work Injured Nurses Group), which has most effective resources to support the lives of the professionals who suffer back injuries in the course of work.

Charney wrote the book “Back Injury Among Healthcare Workers: Causes, Solutions, and Impacts,” which indicates the experiences of different health care workers with back injuries (Charney, 2004). The book illustrates the various kinds of back injuries suffered by the nurses, their aides, and another kind of health care professionals, as well as the causes and the possible remedies. Besides, it highlights possible preventive measures necessary for raising the awareness among the professionals. Therefore, the literature shows that back injuries are common problems suffered by other populations and medical practitioners (Charney, 2004). The injuries often target the back muscles, bones, ligaments, as well as joints. Among other causes of the injuries are the tension, inflammation, muscle imbalance, and spasm. The most effective means of prevention and management of the back injuries are observing all cautions, while working and staying active (Wardell, H., 2007). The medical practitioners must appreciate the simple facts that none has a spare back and that the medical career they practice depends wholly on the ones back (Nelson, Menzel, Nancy, & Gross, Clifford, 2003). Therefore, absolute care must be observed while working to prevent the back injuries. When an individual notices any signs of the back injuries, then medical intervention and advice from a doctor should be sought immediately.

Types of Back Injuries

The primary example of the back injuries is disc problems, sprains and strains, structural problems, nerve irritation, postural stress, and general fractures. Other causes are the musculoskeletal disorders that contribute to the challenge of the majority of the healthcare service providers.

There are many causes of the back injuries, which forms the primary challenges faced by the therapists, while establishing the cause of the specific injury (Wardell, H., 2007). Worth appreciating is that any part of the back has the potential to cause an injury to the back. However, most back injuries do not affect the spine; hence, the conditions are often manageable with little strain. Therefore, the following are possible causes of the back injuries as presented in the literature.

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While the challenge affects mainly the joints, it contributes to a significantly large number of back injuries, especially among the healthcare service providers and workers (Wardell, H., 2007).

Muscle and Ligaments Strain 

Sprains are kinds of stretching and tearing of ligaments, while strains are muscle or tendon injuries. Often, when the body of an individual wears out of experiencing such challenges of sprain and strain, then the individuals are more susceptible to suffering back injuries. The most common explanation of the tearing of body tissues, among many people is the abrupt or impromptu stretching of muscles or ligaments. Besides, the repeated application of excess force to muscles or ligaments may contribute to the tear and wear of the back muscles (Wardell, H., 2007).


The disease is a common and affects the bones. It is characterized by excessive loss of bone strength and density, which contributes to very brittle and porous bones that easily break at the application of pressure (Wardell, H., 2007). Therefore, the possible fracture of the vertebrae is associated with much of the pain suffered from the back injury.


The condition causes much pain in the back when the nerves running from the lower back to the legs compress by a possible bulging of the intervertebral disc (Wardell, H., 2007).

Structural Problems

Some lifelong bad posture like the hunchback and sideways curves cause stress on the back muscles, hence, causing back injuries and pain to the person.


Muscle tension may cause fatigue and stiffness, consequently yield muscle injuries on the back and possible spine misalignment. Besides, for the nurses or paramedics, the process of lifting a patient may pose an equal threat to the development of back injuries. When the practitioner experiences more stress or exposes the back muscles to such strenuous exercises while lifting a patient, muscle misalignment may develop (Wardell, H., 2007). Such misalignment and injuries would explain the cause of much pain suffered by patients with the back injuries. However, other lifestyle factors explain the cause of back pain among the medical practitioners. For instance, lack of physical exercises, sitting for long periods, stress, and bad work practices, as well as being obese or overweight.

Symptoms of Back Injuries

Severe pains of the back muscles and the spine are the primary indicators of the back injury for the healthcare service providers. Nevertheless, other symptoms include physical scars or swellings because of too much pressure from the outside. One, therefore, experiences severe pain when stretching the back muscles. At times, the pain inhibits the normal coordination of other body parts; hence, having the person confined to a bed or resting area. Nevertheless, it must be appreciated that there are different other indicators of the back injury, which usually depend from the individual casualty.

Treatment of Back Injuries

Various modes of treatment are applied when treating a complication associated with back injuries. These approaches include medication, manual therapy, and exercise. Other forms of treatment include surgery and relative rest. However, the most appropriate intervention measures in managing the back injuries should be observing caution by the practitioners. In fact, in this aspect, the medical practitioner would prevent the possible development of the injuries and the associated pain (Nielsen, Sigurdsson & Austin, 2009).


Back pains can be prevented through various ways, especially for the medical professionals. Among the most popular and effective means of avoiding back injuries for the medical professionals are together with embracing effective lifestyle changes (Nielsen, Sigurdsson & Austin, 2009). For instance, constant exercises, observing caution while lifting and carrying patients, maintaining a healthy body weight, relaxing, and observing the right sitting postures would be the primary means of avoiding back injuries for the medical practitioners.

Regular Exercises

Regular exercises are imperative for the body to increase spine strength and muscle support. The exercises help the body to improve capacity to absorb the effects of sudden shocks (Nielsen, Sigurdsson & Austin, 2009). The exercises also improve body posture and resilience towards external pressure. Therefore, this paper recommends that the nurses and other medical practitioners develop the appropriate exercise strategies to avoid the back injuries.

Safe Lifting and Carrying of Patients

Observing caution while lifting the patients would enable the practitioners to avoid possible muscle strains and excessive exertion of pressure to the spine. In fact, this pressure contributes to possible back injury (Nielsen, Sigurdsson & Austin, 2009). Instead of straining while lifting the weight, the practitioners would consider inviting others to assist or use such lifting aid as the trolleys.

Maintaining the Right or Healthy Body Weight

Obesity or overweight condition contributes more to straining the back, a situation that would possibly result to injuring the back (Nielsen, Sigurdsson & Austin, 2009). Therefore, the discipline of maintaining the right body weight for the medical practitioners would facilitate overcoming the challenges related to back injuries.

Concern About the Body Posture

While the medical practitioners often work while standing, the many other times spent while standing pose an equal threat to the person’s health. For instance, observing bad seating posture would expose the back to unintended strain that would result in the development of possible injuries to the back (Nielsen, Sigurdsson & Austin, 2009). The practitioners would then ensure that the seating posture and the materials sat on or leaned against are the most appropriate to avoid subjecting the back to unintended pressure or strain that would lead to the development of back injuries. Besides, one would take regular breaks from the monotony of the sitting posture, a situation that would ease the tension exerted on the back. Therefore, this paper recommends that the medical practitioners regard the right sitting postures to avoid the challenge of developing back pressure and stress due to the body posture assumed while sitting.


Learning different techniques of relaxation enables the body to manage shock, stress, and depression better and relieve the body muscles from the high-level muscle tension. The processes observed in massage rooms, or even the gentle exercises, would enable the body to relax. Therefore, the body indicates improved results against health complication (Nielsen, Sigurdsson & Austin, 2009). Therefore, this paper recommends that all caution be undertaken, while attending daily chores and creating time for relaxing as such would lower the associated risk of developing back injuries.

Improved Sleeping Habits

Science shows that sleeping habits play a critical role in the management of the back pain. First, the majority of the victims of the back injury record either sleeping on quite stiff or soft mattresses (Nielsen, Sigurdsson, & Austin, 2009). As such, there is the preference of using the most comfortable sleeping aids like pillows and mattresses. In that aspect, one should avoid too soft or hard sleeping aids.

Case Study

The process of lifting and transferring patients from one place to another often pose a challenge to the nursing professionals and the assisting aides. Without the proper handling equipment or assistance from peers, the nurses would face the challenge of straining while lifting or carrying the patients. While the health caregivers would be willing and dedicated to assisting the patients, they may face the challenge of straining while lifting or carrying the patients. On normal occasions, the facilities should have the adequate lifting equipment to handle the patients and hence assist the caregivers in overcoming the risks of exposing the back muscles and bones to strain and stress. The most appropriate and effective strategy that should apply to the health care providers in avoiding the back injuries should be developing a plan. The plan should encompass assessing the patients and their needs, planning for the assisting tools and equipment, improving the working environment, embracing safe working practices, and ensuring comprehensive training for the practitioners as well as mobilizing lifting teams. While the plan as explained would be more focused on the working conditions and the factors affecting the working environment, the plan should also consider individualized factors that contribute to the back injuries. The lifestyle-related factors contributing to the back injuries should also be addressed through exercise schedules to the practitioners and ensure that they observe good eating habits.


Back injuries have been common challenges among many people, with the larger segment being professional medical practitioners like the nurses, their aides, and the paramedics. Nevertheless, one must appreciate that the prevalence is equally high for the non-medics, as statistics show that about 80% of adults in the US suffer back injuries at least once in a lifetime. However, this paper focused on the prevalence, indicators, causes, and possible mitigation measures for the back injuries for the medical practitioners. The prevalence is higher among the nurses, the paramedics, and their aid teams. This is because of their work, which involves sitting and standing for long hours. Therefore, the practitioners must embrace the right posture to avoid exposing the back muscles and the spine to unnecessary pressure and tension. The development of back injuries would be mitigated through the deliberate efforts to adopt the appropriate lifestyles as well as work-related interventions. Primarily, the caregivers should avoid straining while lifting and possibly transferring patients. Instead, they should use the appropriate equipment and tools. On the other hand, regular exercise and good eating habits would lower the preference for back injuries among the practitioners.



Charney, W. (2004). Back injury among healthcare workers: Causes, solutions, and impacts. Boca Raton: Lewis.

CDC & NIOSH join to reduce work-related back injuries. (2003). Professional Safety, 48(10), 60. Retrieved from

Fragala, G. & Bailey, L. P., (2003). Addressing occupational strains and sprains: Musculoskeletal injuries in hospitals. AAOHN Journal, 51(6), 252-259. Retrieved from

Menzel, Nancy N, (2004). Back pain prevalence in nursing personnel. AAOHN Journal, 52(2), 54-65. Retrieved from

Nelson, A., John D. Menzel, Nancy, & Gross, Clifford, (2003). Preventing nursing back injuries: Redesigning patient handling tasks. AAOHN Journal, 51(3), 126-134. Retrieved from

Nielsen, D., Sigurdsson, S. O., & Austin, J. (2009). Preventing back injuries in hospital settings: the effects of video modeling on safe patient lifting by nurses. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(3), 551-61. Retrieved from

Wardell, H., M.H.A. (2007). Reduction of injuries associated with patient handling. AAOHN Journal, 55(10), 407-412. Retrieved from

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