Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

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Being a caregiver is a very special role with its own health challenges for the person providing care. We offer tips and strategies so that you can do this important job while protecting your health and well being.


In addition to great patience and dedication, being a caregiver takes physical skill. If you are a family caregiver, you were probably never trained to do tasks such as lifting someone from a wheelchair into a car, dressing and bathing someone, or positioning someone in a bed. All of these tasks are physically demanding. They require you to bend, lean, and use muscles you may not be used to using.

To avoid back injury, strained muscles, and other problems, you must perform physical tasks in the correct fashion, using the proper technique. It is important to have a trained professional such as a physical or occupational therapist teach you how to perform these tasks safely.

Also, it is your responsibility to keep the house physically safe for you and your loved one, to prevent slips, bumps, and accidents that can happen when people are infirm or elderly.

Lifting and Transferring Safely

At times, you may have to transfer your loved one from a bed to a chair or from a wheelchair into a car or from a toilet seat to a standing/walking position.

The following steps are general guidelines to protect your back when you must perform any type of lift or transfer:

  • Move everything out of the way, so that nothing interferes with your movements. If you are moving your loved one to or from a wheelchair, make sure the brakes are engaged.
  • Make certain that your loved one understands they are about to be lifted and/or moved.
  • Come as close as you can to your loved one, so you don't have to reach far forward. If your loved one is on a bed, tell them to roll toward the side where you are standing.
  • Place your feet roughly shoulder width apart so that you have a broad "base."
  • Bend at the knees and hips, never at the waist.
  • Straighten your legs slowly as you lift, keeping your back straight.
  • When you have to turn, always move or adjust your feet. Do not twist at the waist.

If you have any doubt at all about your ability to perform a lift on your own, get help.

When moving a heavy object, it is better to push or to pull than to lift, whenever possible.

Bed positioning

If your loved one cannot move independently in bed, you may need to reposition them periodically to prevent bed sores from forming and to help them feel comfortable.

To move a person from their back to a side lying position, stand by the side of the bed and take hold of the draw sheet on the opposite side from where you are standing. (A draw sheet is a flat sheet, usually folded in half, placed on top of the linens so that someone is lying on top of the draw sheet.) Pull on the sheet to gently roll your loved one onto their side. Hold them in position with one hand and place a pillow behind their back with your other hand. For comfort, place a pillow between their knees. You might also put a pillow beneath their upper arm and place a call button or a bell within their reach.

To move someone back into a lying position, perform this process in reverse.

Have a nurse or other professional show you how to perform bed positioning at first.

Assistive devices

Manual lifting and transferring, even if done properly, are physically taxing over time. Therefore, assistive devices are highly recommended for the safety of both you and your loved one. These devices include:

  • Hydraulic lifts (Hoyer lifts)
  • Overhead track lifts
  • Stair lifts
  • Lift cushions
  • Transfer belts and sliding boards
  • Front-wheeled walkers 

Talk to your health care providers about assistive devices. Have a physical therapist or other qualified person show you how to use them properly.

Keeping the Home Safe

Simple precautions can keep the home environment safe for your loved one and for you. Practical home safety measures include:

  • Nightlights in the bathroom, bedroom, and halls
  • Grab bars and/or shower seats in the shower
  • No-slip rugs in the bathroom by the tub, toilet, and sink
  • Adequate lighting throughout the house, particularly around kitchen appliances
  • Taping down loose rugs, carpets, and electrical cords
  • Covering sharp tabletop and countertop corners with rubber or soft fabric
  • A smoke detector in good working order
  • Hand rails on both sides of stairs 

Depending on your loved one's disability, mental faculties, and level of independence, it may also be helpful to:

  • Extend staircase railings beyond the top and bottom steps, with the help of a skilled carpenter.
  • Keep commonly used objects and kitchen appliances at waist level so that your loved one can reach them easily, without straining.
  • Install a raised toilet seat and/or grab bars on either side of the toilet.
  • Place red labels on the hot water knobs at sink and shower faucets.
  • Disable the cook stove if necessary.
  • Remove any guns or other dangerous weapons from the home.
  • Install single-lever faucets that do not require twisting in the bathroom and kitchen.
Preventing falls

One of the main causes of injury in people age 65 and older is falls. People with certain illnesses like osteoporosis or people who have had a stroke are more at risk for falls. You can help your loved one avoid falls, and avoid them yourself, by taking the following safety measures:

  • Encourage your loved one to move about in a calm, not rushed manner and be careful in your own movements as well. Planning your movements and those of someone you are taking care of will help reduce the risk of falling. 
  • Make sure your loved one is wearing shoes that fit well, are properly fastened, and are the correct size. Have them wear shoes with rubber soles to avoid slipping. Also, be sure their canes or walkers are properly fitted.
  • Be aware of any side effects of medication like dizziness that may increase your loved one's risk of falling.
  • Remove electrical or other cords from walking paths both inside and outside of the home, and make sure that furniture is arranged so that there are wide walking paths throughout the home. Also, keep the floor clear of boxes, books, shoes, papers, and other obstructions.
  • Remove small area rugs and mats that may roll up or have frayed edges or have a tendency to slip (like on a hardwood floor).
  • Ensure your loved one is wearing comfortable clothes while walking.
  • If your loved one has to use a wheelchair to leave the house, consider installing a ramp at entry (of the home), with the help of a skilled carpenter.
  • Avoid carrying large objects that may obstruct your view as you approach stairs and make sure your loved one does not do this either.
  • Be sure there is plenty of light throughout the home, particularly in stairways and passageways.

If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.

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