PSW/CSW and other Home Health Care Workers basic at-home beginner strength program 1

This is definitely not my typical type of post but I do like to try to help anyone I can somehow so I figured I would share this. I spent some time working for an amazing company (I am not sure if I can divulge it on my blog) and worked with a team of AMAZING ladies where we were to put together a very basic home workout program for a certain population of health care workers. This was done a little while back now but I figured that I would share it with you as you may find something useful in it 🙂 This is very general and basic but if you are, or know of someone who has never done any type of strength training and do not have access to a gym or really any equipment, this could help out with getting them doing SOMETHING to help themselves out safely at home.

Why Being a Strong Health Care Professional is ESSENTIAL to Your Client’s Overall Success, Your Employer’s Overall Success, and Most of All YOUR Overall Success


By Team Frontline Fitness

M Traynor, S Leask, J LaFontaine, B Thomas and D LaChance


Statistics don’t lie, but they can be skewed in favour of a desired response. There are many statistics showing that there is a certain level of inevitable injury on the job for the growing workforce population but is this REALLY inevitable? We think not, for the most part anyway! The key is prevention and we are here to highlight not only what some of the statistics and data show in relation to causes of health care worker injuries, explanations of the most common causes of injuries, what these areas are comprised of, but we are here to give you a basic rundown of ways that you can take control to prevent a cascade of negative circumstances surrounding workplace injuries.


Based on our research, the most common injury is musculoskeletal injury or more commonly understood as muscle and bone/joint injury with these types of injuries accounting for over 40% of all lost-time compensation claims in Ontario. This not only costs the company and the government a high price point, but it costs us, the workers hundreds to thousands of dollars in lost wages, medical bills and the plain and simple pain and agony of the injury itself. The three most common injury sites for health care workers in general, are the neck, shoulders, and back due to not only poor ergonomics and biomechanics, but the overall correlation of injury to these sites can be tracked back to a general weakness and lack of awareness of the musculoskeletal system. Musculoskeletal injuries can also more commonly be referred to, in the context of workplace injury, as cumulative trauma disorders, repetitive motion injuries, repetitive strain injuries, soft tissue injuries, and occupational overuse syndrome, all of which relate back to a certain level of weakness.


Musculoskeletal injuries can affect everyone differently, and they may not even be noticed at all until relaxing after work, the next day, or later – possibly first noticed when waking from sleep. These injuries can actually occur after weeks, months, or years of unbalanced stress to muscles, tendons and joints. While MSI’s are not life threatening; they are one of the main reasons Health Care Workers are forced to take off work – limiting the number of qualified workers available at any given time. MSI’s can cause chronic pain, and can be both debilitating and disabling. By identifying our weaknesses on the job, and by doing the correct muscle strength training exercises regularly, we can help prevent injuries to ourselves and to our clients – making it safer for everyone while also saving ourselves in the way of monetary losses and the heartache of never being able to take part in the leisure activities once enjoyed.


Frontline Fitness’ WorkSafe Musculoskeletal Strength Training


I’m sure all of us can be in agreement that our musculoskeletal system can take a beating in our job on a day to day basis – some days more than others – due to:

-the lifting and transferring of clients

-trying to prevent or aid clients in falling

-pushing, pulling, bending

-bathing clients

-and the other routine repetitive duties that put us in awkward/sustained positions.

As previously mentioned, the importance of having good biomechanics and ergonomics is essential in prevention of injury, but  in order to really reap any true benefits of even that, we must have a certain level of body armour in place to protect our most important assets like our spinal column as well as the joints that allow free movement. This is where the resistance/strength training of the three most common injury sites -the neck, shoulders and back- comes into play.


The Neck – The Nuts and Bolts

One of THE most important areas to train and one of THE most neglected is your neck. Having the surrounding muscle groups of the neck strengthened can literally help save your life both on the job, and off. With some simple exercises to strengthen your cervical spine (your neck) you can help prevent detrimental injuries to the area. Strong pliable muscle acts as a sort of cushion against jolts, jerks (the physical kind not the guy down the street), and sudden twists that can be possibly fatal that can occur if a client grabs you the wrong way when trying to stop a fall or even during a transfer. It may surprise you but your neck muscles are used often throughout your work day when bathing clients, changing beds, and helping clients stand.

Your neck is there to support and stabilize your head in the proper alignment of the cervical spine (upper vertebrae of the spine to the base of the skull). They quite literally keep your head on straight with any form of impact, pull, twist etc.

Your muscles of your neck are comprised of several different muscle groups. The main ones are the trapezius muscles (upper, middle and lower), levator scapulae and the sternocleidomastoid.

The trapezius muscles of the neck are responsible for:
* cervical/ head flexion and extension,
* left and right flexion and extension and
* cervical circumduction (head rolls)

and are a decent sized muscle group that actually extends down your back and to your shoulder joints. As you can see, this is a very important muscle to strengthen as it affects our three most common injury sites but for now, let’s just focus on it’s neck related responsibilities.

The levator scapulae is responsible for
* left and right rotation of the head,
* assistance in right and left flexion of the cervical spine and
* scapular (shoulder blade) movements (hence the name of the muscle).

The sternocleidomastoid runs for the most part from your clavicle and sternum to the base of your skull and is responsible for
* right and left anterior (front) and posterior (back) neck flexion and extension and
* neck rotation.

The How To’s

So here’s how to train this area. REMEMBER, always use good form and stay within your means – So be informed, use common sense and good judgement.

The exercises:

       * Shrugs – Start with no weight then use light weight with either homemade weights or resistance bands.

       *Isometric Head Presses – Isometric means you’re using the resistance of your own hands. With your hands resisting the movement against your head move forward, reverse and side ways. Don’t do all three at once. Do all of the forward ones with your hand resisting at your forehead, then cup your hands behind your head to do all of the reverse ones then the side ones.

  • Chin-to-chest – Lie on your back on a bench with your head hanging slightly over the edge and you simply, repeatedly, in a controlled manner bring your chin to your chest.


Prevention of neck pain is easier than you may think. A large degree of neck pain is caused by poor posture and/or age-related disorders (arthritis, osteoarthritis). Keeping your neck strong and your head in proper alignment is a good start. A few other changes you might like to make are:

l Taking frequent breaks

l Stretch frequently – shrug your shoulders, or pull your shoulders together, than release to relax your muscles. Extend your shoulders and arms down; then lean your head from side to side. This will stretch your neck muscles.


The Back – The Nuts and Bolts

Our back muscles are a huge muscle group that supports our head, neck, trunk and spine. Some of the more superficial and bigger muscles of the back are the latissimus dorsi- the broadest muscles of the back on either side of the spine, the upper back muscles, rhomboids and the trapezius, and the more commonly known lower back  muscles the erector spinae, which actually run almost the entirety of the spinal column.  The back muscles make up a huge amount of muscle mass that can protect us from a variety of injuries while also helping us to better perform our jobs safely. It’s important to work all areas of the back when strength training as they play various roles in activities such as lifting, carrying, protecting our spine and even in activities that involve pushing or pressing. We as health care workers repetitively move, transfer, and reposition clients and our constantly putting our entire posterior chain (the muscles that make up what you can’t see in the mirror) under a lot of stress. One of the best exercises for strengthening your entire back (and strengthening your core) that translates very well to our work is the deadlift, which will later be demonstrated.

By strengthing our back muscles we will be able to improve our performance and decrease our risk of injury, increase and maintain joint flexibility, allow for better posture and prevent disease (ie. osteo)

By strengthening our back muscles in their entirety, we will not only protect our most valuable assest, our spine, but we will be able to better perform our jobs as well as preventing both acute and chronic injury of the surrounding joints.

The Shoulder Joint- Nuts and Bolts

The shoulder joint is what is called a ball and socket joint and a “free floating” joint that has a big responsibilty in just about every movement we make which makes it the most susceptible to injury due to it’s lack of stability. This is one of the main reasons why creating stability, for the most part, in the shoulder joint with resistance training is crucial. Your shoulder girdle is involved in movements of lifting, pushing, pulling and reaching and if your joints and muscles aren’t strong enough to keep your shoulder anchored into your socket, injuries can arise. While the shoulders are most commonly known to be comprised of the anterior, posterior, medial and lateral deltoid muscles, it is more or less the smaller muscles of the shoulder joint known as the rotator cuff muscles, that really need to be focused on in prevention of injury. The rotator cuff is made up of three bones- the scapula (shoulder blade), the humerus (upper arm bone) and the clavicle (the collarbone), and the two bones making up the socket that allow movement are called  the acromion and the glenoid fossa. Holding this all together to make up the joint itself are four muscles called the subscapularis (medially rotates the humerus and provides shoulder stability), supraspinatus (abduction of arm and stabilizes the humerus),infraspinatus (lateral rotation of arm and stabilizes the humerus) and the teres minor (laterally rotates the arm and stabilizes the humerus). As a generalization, the ways of injuring the shoulder are from overuse of the joint and a weak musculature system, lifts that are too heavy and excessive force like in catching something/someone or in stopping a fall. With the right strengthening and stretching exercises done consistently, you should be able to prevent the many common debilitating injuries that occur in health care workers.

So now that we all know the most common injuries to health care workers, some of the most common reasons for these injuries, as well as a basic understanding of the musculoskeletal system applicable to these areas, let’s get into a basic rundown of some of the exercises that you can do at home to help prevent these afflictions. You should always perform some kind of warmup before performing any exercise which can be a power walk around the block, some jumping jacks or even marching in place while pumping your arms. It is vital to strengthen your entire body not just these three areas, so we have decided to give you a basic beginner total body workout to get you started that you can do at home. The key with any exercise is to challenge yourself but in the case of the exercises for your neck and shoulders, keep the intensity a bit lighter as these are “delicate” areas. Every week you can try to add a little more resistance while keeping the repetitions the same. There are so many ways to keep progressing each week such as EITHER increasing the resistance and keeping the repetitions the same, adding an extra set and so on. Just keep challenging yourself. At the end of your exercise be sure to do some static stretching such as those given in the handouts. Performing the basic exercises we have given you three times per week to start, 20-30 minutes of high intensity (this is relative and different for everyone but push yourself!) at a time will aid in prevention of injury. Don’t become a statistic, take action! We are at the frontline so let’s all build our shields, our bodies of armour with the Frontline Fitness Worksafe Program!


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