Carpal tunnel syndrome. Low back pain. Shoulder pain. These are just a few of the common, pain-related complaints in all areas of health care. Sometimes, no matter what you try, you can’t find relief with a conservative treatment approach. In this article, I list a few lesser known approaches to ways to manage chronic ailments in the hopes that you can find the necessary tools to work and live free of physical discomfort.
1. Active Release Techniques (ART)
Over 30 years ago, chiropractor Dr. P. Michael Leahy, began ART as a way to correct soft tissue disorders in elite athletes. Before becoming a chiropractor, Leahy was an engineer in the air force. He combined his particular background to develop a therapeutic system of movements to correct musculoskeletal problems associated with the overuse of muscles—problems like back pain, neck pain, and sciatica—which are so prevalent in the nursing community.
According to the website, it’s a “patented, state of the art soft tissue system/movement based massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves. Headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow are just a few of the many conditions that can be resolved quickly and permanently with ART.”
If persistent pain is affecting your job and your life, ART may be an innovative option to bring your body into balance. Practitioners are located throughout the world and consist of licensed health care providers or massage therapists. To find a practitioner in your area, click here.
2. Anatomy Trains
Created in the 1990’s by author and bodyworker Thomas Myers, Anatomy Trains treats the interconnectedness of the fascial and myofascial tissues throughout the whole body. This holistic approach allows practitioners to understand the relationship between postural stability, coordination, and muscle restrictions and their impact on a person’s movement.
“We look for those places or patterns that have imposed limitations on the person’s movement and work to lift them off. How can we ‘lighten the load’ people impose on themselves? What is revealed is not some robotic ‘perfect posture’ but a return to the person’s original intent, less hobbled by the slings and arrows they have encountered,” says Myers on the website.
If you experience pain every time you do a certain movement, such as leaning over a bed to position a patient from one side to the other, then you might benefit from a practitioner certified in Anatomy Trains to break your current movement patterns and assist your body with creating new ones. Practitioners include health care providers, massage therapists, and mind-body exercise instructors (like Pilates, yoga, and Tai Chi). To locate a practitioner, click here.
3. Feldenkrais Method
The Feldenkrais Method was created by Moshe Feldenkrais, an Israeli physicist and engineer, after an old knee injury flared up. Doctors told him he needed surgery for the injury, but instead, he chose to analyze his movement patterns, and he learned to walk pain-free. This method employs physics, biomechanics, and observation to help a person move with less tension and greater ease. Feldenkrais taught his first training course in 1969.
As stated on the website, “The Feldenkrais Method of somatic education uses gentle movement and directed attention to help people learn new and more effective ways of living the life they want. You can increase your ease and range of motion, improve your flexibility and coordination, and rediscover your innate capacity for graceful, efficient movement.”
Who may be a good candidate for this therapy? Anyone who’s seeking pain relief or battling conditions of the central nervous system. While practitioners come from a wide range of backgrounds, they all must complete 160 days of training over a minimum of 3 years, to obtain eligibility to become certified by the Feldenkrais Guild of North America. To find a Feldenkrais practitioner in your area, click here.
Please note: When one of these therapies is administered by a licensed health care provider, some insurances may cover the cost of these services.
Whether you’re gluten-free due to health reasons or you’re just trying it out to see if you feel more energized during the day, finding quick and tasty breakfast ideas can pose a big challenge for nurses. There are some mornings (or all mornings) where the hustle and bustle of getting ready for work leaves you with mere minutes to eat before you have to fly out the door. Instead of reaching for a bowl of cereal, or worse, skipping breakfast altogether, try these nutrient-dense, gluten-free options to power up so you can give your most energized self to your patients during the day.
1. Gluten-Free Toast with Avocado and a Fried Egg
Who doesn’t love avocado toast? Mash half an avocado, squeeze in juice from half a lime and add in a dash of sea salt to taste. Smash ingredients together with your fork. Spread your avocado mash onto two toasted, gluten-free slices of bread. Top each slice of toast with a fried egg and sprinkle with a little more sea salt, ground pepper, and red pepper flakes as desired. This healthy fat and protein combination will keep you feeling full until your next snack or meal.
2. Maca Root and Nut Butter Smoothie
Smoothies are a great way to make a lightning fast breakfast. This creamy drink will help you forget you’re trying to eat healthier. In a high-powered blender, blend 1 cup of plant-based milk (like flax or hemp) or nut milk (like almond or cashew), 1 small banana, 2 tablespoons of the nut butter of your choice, and 1 teaspoon of maca root powder. Pour into a glass and drink. Maca root powder is known as a superfood and is loaded with essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Want to make your smoothie even more decadent? Add in two tablespoons of the powerful antioxidant, raw cacao powder. On its own, raw cacao is very bitter. But, when mixed with the natural sugars from the banana and the creaminess of the nut butter, raw cacao creates a nutritious, chocolatey beverage.
3. Spinach and Feta Cheese Scramble
If you have a few minutes to spare, this omelet provides you with protein, b vitamins, magnesium, iron, and more to energize your body. Sauté a cup of spinach, add 2 eggs, and ¼ cup of feta cheese. Scramble the mixture until it’s cooked through and dig in. To increase the nutrient profile of this breakfast, serve it with a mixed green side salad drizzled with an all-natural, balsamic vinaigrette.
4. Chocolate-Chia Pudding with Strawberries
If you usually eat oatmeal for breakfast, give the first meal of the day a refresh by trying this chia pudding. Chia seeds are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, fiber, and minerals. Best of all, this dish requires little to no prep time. For ingredients, you’ll need an unsweetened nut milk of your choice, vanilla extract, chia seeds, maple syrup, cocoa powder, and fresh strawberries. In a bowl, combine 1 cup of nut milk, 3 tablespoons of chia seeds, 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons of cocoa powder, ¼ teaspoon of vanilla extract, and maple syrup to taste. Stir the ingredients thoroughly, cover the bowl, and place in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, remove the pudding, add in some sliced strawberries, mix it up, and enjoy!
You know the feeling. It’s your third shift in a row, it’s a particularly difficult patient or family, it’s a heartbreaking story, it’s an intense diagnosis, it’s short-staffed night on the unit. Nursing is profoundly tiring—physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Our shifts are long: Even on a normal day, by hour number 10 you may be feeling strained. You can pull from your reserves, but sometimes there isn’t anything left. You have compassion fatigue. You’re experiencing caregiver burnout.
These moments on the unit can be tough. You may feel yourself start to become anxious, or more stressed out that normal. An otherwise meaningless interaction with a doctor, colleague, or patient can leave you nearly in tears. What can you do to avoid burnout?
First of all, in the heat of the moment, take a second to breathe. Try to center yourself by inhaling through your nose and breathing out through your mouth for at least five breaths. This can help calm your body and mind, even when you don’t think it will work.
After your shift ends, it’s time to practice self-care. As nurses, it can be incredibly difficult for us to do this. But just like oxygen masks on an airplane, we all know deep down that it is difficult to care for others when we ourselves are in a fragile, fatigued place.
In theory, the easiest two things to control are our diet and sleep. In practice, we know this isn’t always the case. Aim for quality over quantity: If you can’t get enough sleep, try to make it the best sleep possible. Spend time enhancing your sleep environment with room-darkening shades, white noise machines, comfortable bedding, and a great mattress. Use the “do not disturb” feature on your cell phone. If you’re a night shifter, you could write a note on on your front door that anyone who rings a doorbell will be met with fire and fury.
For your belly, try to pack healthy, filling options for meals and snacks. Aim to always eat breakfast. Low blood sugar can easily translate into crankiness, so try to stay ahead of your curve by packing granola bars in your scrub pockets or bringing easy to eat meals for times when you can’t get a lunch break. (Which, let’s be honest, is every day.)
Most importantly, assess yourself. We as nurses are in the business of assessing our patients, but we rarely turn that critical eye on ourselves. Try to really check in with your emotional reserves, and try to find healthy ways to process your stress. Make a care plan for yourself, and re-assess frequently.
There is good news about the upcoming holiday-pack-on-the-pounds-season. It’s still many weeks away. That means—at the moment—you can’t use the excuse of “it’s a bad time of year” to justify NOT working on your eating and exercise goals to get healthier.
Imagine this: if you start today, you have a nice head start on your 2018 resolutions.
Now, are you ready? If so, here are 11 strategies toward achieving a healthier body and mental outlook:
1. Reach your ideal weight.
Learn what your BMI is to determine how much you need to lose or gain to improve your health. Anything lower than 18.5 is considered underweight and a BMI over 30 is considered obese.
2. Move into a groove.
What kind of exercise brings a smile to your face? That’s not a trick question. Most of us like doing some kind of activity. The goal is to be active most days of the week for at least 30 minutes. Pump your favorite music and dance while cleaning, watching TV, or lifting weights. Find what works and rock out.
3. Chew more.
Speed eating leads to thicker waistlines. Slow down. Focus on savoring your meals, snacks, and refreshments. Challenge yourself to appreciate every ingredient. Jazz up your table, counter, or island with flowers, candles, or colorful plates and enjoy the view.
4. Minimize stress.
Start with deep breathing, which can lower cortisol levels and blood pressure, studies show. Whether you write in a journal, listen to music, or do an art project, find a way to unwind and relax while enjoying yourself.
5. Maximize positivity.
Your mind is a powerful tool to help you change. Start there. Look for the bright side. Seek out supportive friends. Find ways to reduce stress and increase laughter. Start each day with gratitude and move from there.
6. Get outside.
Fresh air and a brisk walk can be a wonderful combination to lift your mood, increase energy, and burn calories. Consider a picnic while it’s still warm.
7. Ink in play dates (for you, not your child).
You know that pedicure or dinner with your best friend that you keep putting off? Stop doing that. Repeat this: You are allowed to have fun.
8. Keep learning.
Ever longed to play an instrument? Want to learn screenwriting? If not now, when? Keep your mind nimble by stretching your brain. If time is tight, consider online classes.
9. Add vitamin D.
Research shows many of us are vitamin D deficient, which exposes us to all sorts of illnesses and diseases such as an increased risk for coronary artery disease, Alzheimer’s, and early death.
10. Practice mindfulness.
Being in the moment means you are fully present and paying attention to what’s occurring. This type of focus takes practice. Google to learn some exercises to practice mindfulness.
11. Drink lots of water.
Sometimes thirst is mistaken for hunger. Start the day by adding a bit of lemon juice to your water, which aids your immunity and digestion. Carry a water bottle with you to ensure you are hydrated.
Adding these strategies to your daily regimen requires discipline. Aren’t you worth it?
Do you find that you’re too pressed for time to hit the gym? If so, lace up your walking shoes and find a small space either inside or outside your home to walk your way to a healthier body.
If your walking shoes need an upgrade, the Mayo Clinic’s online section, Healthy Lifestyle, provides useful tips to help you pick out the perfect pair. Those tips are as follows:
Wear the same socks you’ll wear when walking, or take the socks with you to the store.
Shop for shoes after you’ve been walking for a while, and later in the day, when your feet are at their largest.
Buy shoes at an athletic shoe store with professional fitters or at a store where you have lots of options.
Ask the salesperson to measure both feet, measure them yourself, or have a friend or family member help you. Measure your feet each time you buy shoes because your foot size can change gradually over the years. Stand while your foot is measured to get the most accurate measurement.
If one foot is larger than the other, try on a pair that fits your larger foot.
Try on both shoes and check the fit. Wiggle your toes. If you don’t have at least a half-inch (1.3 centimeters) between your longest toe and the end of the shoe — approximately the width of your finger — try a larger size.
Be sure the shoe is wide enough. The side-to-side fit of the shoe should be snug, not tight. If you’re a woman with wide feet, consider men’s or boys’ shoes, which are cut a bit larger through the heel and the ball of the foot.
Walk in the shoes before buying them. They should feel comfortable right away. Make sure your heel fits snugly in each shoe and doesn’t slip as you walk.
Now that you have a pair of shoes that fit you properly, it’s time to get moving! Whether you’re trying to lose weight, reduce stress, or feel more energized, these 4 walking workouts are a low-impact way to get fit and meet your exercise goals.
1. 30-Minute Guided Mindful Walking Meditation
If you’re feeling burned out, this video from OnlineMeditation will ease your body from a stressed out state into one of deep relaxation while you gently walk, observe how your body feels, and contemplate the sights and sounds around you. This meditation is an excellent way to experience the therapeutic benefits of moving mindfully through your surroundings.
2. 1-Mile Power Walk Full Length Walking Workout Video Low Impact
If you’re looking for a workout to help you ease back into exercise, this one-mile workout by JessicaSmithTV can do just that. You can do this workout indoors or take it outdoors to soak up some vitamin D. In just 20-minutes, this video’s brisk pace will rev up your heart rate and get the blood flowing.
3. Burn Body Fat 2 Mile | 30-Minute Workout at Home
Leslie Sansone’s Walk at Home video cranks up the intensity in this 30-minute exercise routine. Here, Sansone uses one to three-pound weights to help you feel the burn. She also provides you with detailed instructions on how to maintain correct posture to reduce the risk of unwanted injuries.
4. 5-MILE WALK- Keaira LaShae
If you’re looking for a challenge, and you have an hour to spare, this five-mile walk by superherofitnesstv will have your heart pumping and give you a serious calorie burn. Grab a pair of one to two-pound hand weights and march to the beat of this uplifting video, which feels like you left your living room and entered a dance studio. Make sure to keep some water nearby; you’ll feel the burn with this routine as you push your body to the finish line.
Prior to the 1950s, neonatal jaundice was a common problem and one of the leading causes of death in premature infants — that is, until a British nurse made a fortuitous discovery.
Sister Jean Ward, whose reputation for excellence in rearing puppies landed her a job running the preemie unit at Rochford General Hospital in Essex, England, was a “keen” believer in the restorative effects of fresh air and sunshine and on warm days would wheel the frailer infants into the hospital’s sunny courtyard.
Not wanting to raise any eyebrows with her unorthodox practice, Ward would usually scurry the babies back inside to their incubators before the hospital’s pediatricians made their rounds.
But one afternoon in 1956, Ward ushered a group of doctors over and sheepishly showed them the preemie in her care. The infant was pale yellow from head to toe, except for one deeply bronzed triangle of skin.
Mystified, one of the doctors asked if she had painted that portion of the baby’s skin with iodine. It wasn’t a paint job, Ward assured him. The darker patch of jaundiced skin had been covered up by the corner of a sheet while the infant was outside. It was the rest of the infant’s yellowish skin that had faded, she explained, apparently from the sun exposure.
Ward’s astute observations helped to pave the way for phototherapy treatments that are still used today to treat infants suffering from hyperbilirubinemia — and she’s just one of many nurses whose bedside discoveries have revolutionized the way we care for patients.
Other groundbreaking nurse inventions, as noted in this 2014 Medscape article, include everything from disposable sanitary napkins to crash carts to ostomy bags to disposable baby bottles. It was also a nurse, who in 1911, created the first mannequin to function as a patient simulator for nurses in training — and newer generations of nurse inventors and researchers are tackling other vexing problems in health care.
With hospital-acquired infections on the rise, Ginny Porowski worried about the health hazard created by waste bins overflowing with contaminated isolation gowns — a common sight on any floor with patients on contact precautions. So a few years ago, the North Carolina nurse invented a new type of gown that can be disposed of more easily. Unlike the typical isolation gear, Porowski’s GoGown has a special inside panel allowing the wearer to wrap a used gown into a small, compact bundle for safer disposal. Health care providers never have to touch the outside of the gown and used bundles sink to the bottom of the trash container, rather than billowing out the top.
A Chicago-area nurse’s research, meanwhile, is changing the way some Illinois hospitals approach newborns’ first baths.
Courtney Buss, an RN at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Illinois had been hearing a lot of buzz about the benefits of delaying a newborn’s first bath for at least eight to 24 hours, but she was unable to find much in the way hard evidence supporting the “wait-to-bathe” approach. Looking for answers, she decided to conduct her own investigation.
At most hospitals, newborns typically receive a sponge bath soon after birth to remove the white, waxy, cheese-like substance called vernix caseosa that covers their body. But Buss’s 2016 study showed that leaving the protective layer of vernix intact for at least 14 hours can dramatically reduce bouts of hypothermia and hypoglycemia in newborns.
Over the course of nine months, as bathing was delayed, Buss found that the percentage of infants suffering from hypothermia dropped from nearly 30% to 7% and hypoglycemia rates plummeted from 21% to 4%, according to the Chicago Tribune. Delayed bathing also dramatically improved breastfeeding rates among the babies because the vernix helps neonates pick up on their mother’s scent, which makes latching easier.
The hospital system where Buss works has since instituted a “wait to bathe” policy at half its hospitals and her research underscores what the nursing profession has long known — that important discoveries aren’t restricted to those in white lab coats. Innovative scientists also wear scrubs and even answer call bells.