Managing Back Pain

A common condition for seniors and their caregivers is back pain.  As we age, many of us will experience reduced flexibility in connective tissues which makes it more difficult to repair tight muscles.  For caregivers; lifting, bending and transferring another person can put a lot of strain on muscles in the shoulders, back and neck.  As a senior home care service provider in Toronto, we are advocates that our staff and family caregivers prevent injury while care giving. Here are some things you can do that can help both seniors and caregivers avoid injury and manage pain.


Managing back pain: DO Lift from your Legs (not your back!)

Before lifting or transferring a person or heavy object, bend your knees and focus on lifting from your legs instead of your back.  Our legs are built to withstand greater weight and we have much more power lifting than if we use our back.  Be careful not to reach out to begin lifting – keep the person or object close to you to avoid straining your back, shoulders or neck.  Get in the habit of leaving items like shoes or kitchen appliances at chest level.  It’s worth taking the time to rearrange the house so that less bending over is required on a day-to-day basis.  In the bedroom, electric beds are a great option to ease into and out of each day.  And in the bathroom, a shower seat and proper grabs bars can go a long way to helping both seniors and caregivers to reduce back strain and injury.


Managing back pain: DO Stretch Often

Stretching is sometimes forgotten as an exercise to strengthen and repair your back.  Ideally, stretch two to three times per day for short periods.  This will help make your muscles looser and longer providing you with a greater range of motion.  Ask your health care professionals (doctor, personal support worker, physio-therapist) about stretching routines that are safe for you.  Our Retire-At-Home Services Toronto office can recommend an excellent physio-therapist who can come to your home and set up an exercise and stretching routine.


Managing back pain: DO Stay Active

Following a serious back injury, your doctor may advise you to take it easy and not move around too much until your body has had some time to recover.  However, if you are experiencing more moderate chronic back pain, you should keep moving to stop your muscles from weakening or tightening over time.  Remember to keep your movements gentle.


Managing back pain: DO Get Enough Sleep

It seems that every day a new article is published touting the benefits of a good night’s sleep.  Pain management is yet another benefit, and sleeping at least 7 hours each night will help to give your muscles and tendons a chance to relax and repair themselves.  Mattress technology has come a long way so if you find that you are waking up sore with acute pain in your back, you should give serious consideration to investing in a better mattress.  Be sure to choose a mattress that is supportive, comfortable and suitable for your specific needs.


Managing back pain: DO use Heat to Relax

Heat improves blood circulation which in turn speeds up recovery of our muscles.  There are a number of products on the market that can be heated in a microwave and applied to your back, shoulders and neck.  Once you have the temperature just right and you apply the heat pad, you will feel the tension melt away.  Be careful not to leave the heat pad on one area longer than twenty minutes to avoid burning your skin.


Managing back pain: DO Sit up Straight!

Posture is very important for strengthening your back, neck and shoulders to avoid pain and injury.  If you find yourself in front of a computer or TV for periods of one hour or longer, ensure that you are in a chair (or sofa) that will enhance your posture and not hinder it.  In today’s day and age we are surrounded by screens: TV, computer, laptop, tablet and phones.  Try to view your device at eye-level as much as possible.  Looking down or up for an extended period will add considerable pressure to your neck and shoulders.  Take a break often to give yourself an opportunity to stretch and exercise your range of motion.


Managing back pain: DO Exercise Daily

So long as you are not injured or experiencing severe back pain, seniors and caregivers should exercise regularly to strengthen muscles.  As with stretching, there are many beneficial exercises that you can do in the comfort of your own home to improve resilience and flexibility.  Always check with a health care professional to ensure it is safe for you to begin or resume an exercise program.  We advise having a session with a physiotherapist who can show you the right way to exercise in your home.


To recap, here are 7 things you can DO to relieve and avoid back pain:

  • DO Lift from your Legs
  • DO Stretch Often
  • DO Stay Active
  • DO Get Enough Sleep
  • DO use Heat to Relax
  • DO Sit up Straight!
  • DO Exercise Daily


The Canadian Pain Society  may provide you with more information about managing back pain