While the emotional and psychological implications of caring for a child with special needs is often a point of discussion, the impact on a parent/carer's physical wellbeing is consistently overlooked. Parents/carers of children with disabilities have no choice but to place their bodies under extreme pressure on a daily basis and usually for indefinite periods of time and while this alone can be exhausting, there is the added challenge that the child they are caring for is growing as quickly as what they themselves are ageing.
Thankfully, there are skilled professionals who can provide expert advice and guidance on how to both prevent serious injury to yourself and on how to strengthen the body in order to make meeting those physical demands that little bit easier. One such group of skilled professionals, Aucamp & Wilsdorf Physiotherapists treated our Daniel and Friends Fund parents to an informative and delightfully entertaining morning on this very matter.
Compromised strength as your body tries to accommodate your growing child, together with continuous repetition of high-risk movement, such as carrying a non-mobile, 25Kg child on your hip for extended periods of time or lifting your child into and out of the bath every evening, can result in painful and debilitating muscle and skeletal injuries, which in turn could cause the following :
- Lower back pain (usually caused by muscle spasms and/or discus lesions)
- Sciatic nerve injury
- Rotator cuff injuries (shoulder)
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
PREVENTION IS BETTER (AND CHEAPER) THAN CURE:
Getting to know and utilise your Transverse Abdominus Muscle - often referred to as the corset in Pilates, the transverse abdominum muscle is the deepest abdominal muscle, which extends from the belly button up to the rib cage.
It wraps horizontally from the back of the body to the front and its main function is to maintain tone of the abdominal organs and to interplay with many core components, ie. the spine and the muscles surrounding the spine and other abdominal muscles. Your core is the essential originator of most of the body's movement, as well as is the determinant for the quality of an individual's posture, aligning the trunk if the muscles all have the proper tone. Because of this structure, the core is a good way to help prevent lower back pain and/or injury.
PREVENTING INJURY – POINTS TO REMEMBER:
Bath Time :
• Always centre your movement from your core when moving your child
• Keep your back straight, avoid uncomfortable positions and never rotate your back when you move
• Keep the child as close to your body as possible
• Always go down or up to the child’s level
• Make the area as comfortable as possible and think out of the box with regards to prepping the area before the time, etc.
• Use a bath mat to prevent sudden, strained movement should you or your child slip
• Make use of a bath chair where possible
• Keep toiletries close by and prepare all necessities beforehand
• Place a cushion under knees when kneeling next to the bath
• Raise the bath, if possible
• Make sure not to rotate your hips when transferring child into or out of bath
• Ensure that the water level is not too high
• When warm enough, dry child before taking out of the bath (to prevent slipping)
Bed Time :
• Ensure the bed is at a comfortable height
• “Log roll” the child onto his/her side first
• Keep your knees comfortably bent
• Use a slip-sheet movement where possible
• Wear comfortable clothes
• Make sure equipment is always at its highest functional level
Transferring child to and from vehicle:
• Make use of a small step-ladder if the car is too high
• Hold your child as close to your body as possible
• Keep the child in a sitting position
• Position pram or wheelchair before hand
Physiotherapist Annegret Wilsdorf demonstrating "Log and Roll"
And the benefits of keeping your child close to your body
Instruction on effective core exercises was enjoyed by young Pierre Cloete
With thanks to Aucamp & Wilsdorf Physiotherapists for,
once again, giving so generously of their time and knowledge.