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Media Release

April 4 2007

Fitness a key factor in preventing back pain for carers

While an estimated 80 per cent of Australians are believed to experience lower back pain at some point in their lives, carers of children with physical disabilities are at much greater risk of injury. New research from a study into back health for carers of children with physical disabilities shows the incidence of low back pain is far higher in this cohort, with more than half of these carers experiencing low back pain at any one time.

“This increased occurrence of lower back pain in carers and parents of children with physical disabilities is believed to be due to increased physical demands put on their backs when caring for children,” said Mathew Prior, Bachelor of Physiotherapy Hons, UniSA.

“It is very important for carers to engage in some key strategies to minimise injury and maintain a healthy back,” said Prior.

“There are a number of things that carers can do to help prevent low back pain and as the majority of these carers are also the child’s parents it is even more important for them to maintain their health.”

Prior said that there were five key areas where carers could take precautions.

“Undertaking regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight will help carers cope with the increased physical demands placed on the lower back when assisting with lifting and positioning a child with physical disabilities,” he said.

He said that carers should also avoid prolonged postures, particularly bent or twisted ones of the low back.

“What seems like a simple task of assisting a child at mealtimes is significantly associated with the higher incidence of lower back injury.”

Prior also suggested learning and practising correct lifting techniques. These techniques include keeping the child close to your body when lifting, lifting in a slow and controlled manner, not fast and jerky, and bracing the deep abdominal muscles that help stabilise the spine to reduce the risk of injury.

“Avoid bending at the back and being in bent and twisted positions when lifting, instead, bend at the knees and retain the natural curves of your back,” he advises.

“If you do experience low back, don't panic. Most low back pain is neither severe nor long lasting, and can be greatly helped by keeping active and following specific exercises devised by your health professional.”


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