Chapter 2: As care needs increase

Putting your back into it – safely

I thought I was strong and could handle it. Until I pinched a nerve in my back. Then I couldn’t help her or myself.

In your role as a caregiver, you may be required to help lift, transfer, or reposition the person. It is important to keep your back healthy and strong to decrease the likelihood of back injury. Exercise such as walking or swimming can increase strength in your lower back and help your muscles function better. You may also want to consider abdominal exercises to help support your back. Below are several things you can do to help keep your back healthy. Roll your mouse over each to view.

*Always check with your own healthcare provider before attempting any exercises.

If you are lifting someone…



…try to let your legs do the work. Keep your back straight, and bend only at the knees. Keep the person as close to your body as possible. Avoid lifting and twisting at the same time.


If you are sitting for long periods at a time…



…make sure your chair has good lower-back support, or put a pillow or rolled towel in the small of your back to help it keep its shape. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor.


If you need to stand for long periods of time…



…place one foot on a low footstool to take some of the pressure off your back.


A couple of other things to keep in mind…

If the person is not able to lift much of their weight

Do the major moves – such as helping the person move from bed to chair – when someone else is there to help. It is much easier for two people to help someone move around.

If the person falls and cannot get up themself

Your first instinct may be to help them get up again. Lifting someone up off the floor can be very difficult. It may be safer for the person to remain on the floor until you can get help from someone else. Place a pillow under the person’s head and help them into a comfortable position until help arrives.

Protecting your back from injury will help to ensure you are able to continue caring for the person who is ill.

​​ Helpful resources