According to the UK Census in 2011, 6.5 million people in the UK are carers; that’s 1 in 8 adults and it is estimated that, by 2037, the number of carers in the UK will rise to 9 million (Carers UK).
For many carers, physical activity such as lifting is a significant part of their daily routine. According to research carried out by YouGov one of the biggest worries for older people with no experience of caring is the impact on their physical health; 40% of over 65 year olds put this as one of their top three worries.
Research from the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) shows that lifting and carrying can trigger back pain for almost half 56% of people in the UK and this number could even be higher for those carers, who are often putting additional stresses and strains on their bodies.
Although paid carers may receive training on how to protect their backs during the physical aspects of their work, many unpaid carers may not receive any training or information about back care.
To coincide with National Carers Week (5 – 8 October) The British Chiropractic Association has developed the following simple tips for all carers to help them whilst they’re helping others.
Tim Hutchful from the BCA comments: “Carers spend long periods of time on their feet and put a lot of strain on their bodies, from lifting and assisting the person they are caring for, to moving equipment. Even though our bodies are very well adapted to a variety of tasks, carers need to be particularly careful not to overload themselves and put their backs at risk.
“Formal care settings should have lifting and moving equipment available and staff should always make sure that they have been trained in the proper use of all equipment. Home carers should make sure they receive home assessments for the person they are caring for as equipment can often be loaned out – this will require appropriate training for proper use.”
Golden rules for carers
• Think ahead – assess each situation and look for the best and easiest way to achieve the desired result, this may mean using any available equipment whether it be for specialist lifting or a simple sack barrow for moving boxes of supplies.
• Follow the weight – always try and face the direction in which you want to carry any weight – your body is strongest when you are square on to the weight.
• Take care when lifting – never lift while twisting from the waist. Bend your knees, try to have a relaxed, straight back and if possible, brace your abdominal muscles. For added stability make sure that your feet are about a shoulder width or more apart before lifting.
• Supportive shoes are essential – wear good, soft-soled shoes that are supportive and have a good grip on the ground.
• Take regular breaks – if doing a repetitive task, take a break every 20 minutes and do some simple stretches to relax your muscles.
• Ask for help – if in a home setting looking after a relative or friend there are many local agencies and charities who can assess and advise on what equipment or help you may need. Don’t carry on putting your body at strain. Explore all avenues of assistance. If you are provided with any equipment, make sure you are given training on how to use it.
• Ask for training – if in a formal setting make sure you have been properly trained in good lifting techniques and on any equipment you are using.
Tim recommends a very simple three minute exercise routine entitled Straighten Up UK from the British Chiropractic Association which is really easy to incorporate into daily life to help strengthen the spine and improve posture. The exercise routine can be accessed on the BCA website: https://chiropractic-uk.co.uk/straighten-up-uk/