Caregiver? Take Care of Yourself and Your Back, Too

Many adults spend a significant portion of their time caring for loved ones suffering from disability, chronic illness, or the effects of aging. Caregivers’ efforts are a crucial part of improving the quality of life for the recipient of their care. Unfortunately, the emotional stress and physical exertion of providing care to an ill or disabled loved one can have quite a negative impact on the caregiver’s health — often manifesting itself in neck and back pain.

Caring for a loved one can be stressful. Our bodies reactively tense up when we feel stressed, which exacerbates existing pain conditions. The physical actions of caregiving — such as bending and lifting — are hard on the back and shoulders. In addition, caregivers frequently report that they have less time for their own exercise routines and find themselves turning to unhealthy food choices more frequently.

As difficult as it may be, it is essential that caregivers remember to make caring for their own physical (and emotional) needs a priority — for the sake of their own wellbeing. The first step in this process is to ask for help from friends and family. It may also be a good idea to talk with your doctor. They may be even more beneficial as he or she can assess the toll that caregiving is taking on you and suggest lifestyle changes, exercises, or other treatments that will help. 

Being healthy, and educated about your own needs, will make you an even more effective caregiver. If you experience sudden pain or chronic pain (pain that won’t go away) discuss this with your doctor as well. Also make him or her aware of any changes in appetite, sleeping, or other physical changes. Your health should come first because if you're not able to take care of yourself, how are you going to take care of someone else?

Some suggestion for caring for yourself:

  1. drink lots of water to keep your muscles and vertebral discs hydrated — at least 8 glasses a day
  2. take breaks — even just 15 minutes — a few times a day to relax and do something you enjoy or simply to practice deep breathing or meditation exercises
  3. maintain a healthy diet — it’s easy to turn to “empty calorie” foods when stressed; but try to choose things that will strengthen your body (like lean proteins, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables) not harm it
  4. practice proper lifting techniques to avoid back pain: use your legs not your back
  5. practice good posture when standing and sitting
  6. get plenty of rest: for most people that means 7-8 hours of sleep a night
  7. after consulting with your doctor, add strengthening and stretching activities such as yoga, tai chi, or other physical exercise to your regular routine

It is easy for caregivers to get so busy caring for others that you neglect your own health and wellness needs. If back pain or neck pain are one of the results of your caregiving, we invite your to visit our Fort Wayne Chiropractic clinic. Dr. Busch of the Busch Chiropractic Pain Center in Fort Wayne understands the stresses, activities and causes of back pain and can design a customized treatment program to meet your specific pain relief needs. 

A healthy caregiver is the best caregiver — don’t let yourself suffer unnecessary pain. Call today.

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