As a speech therapy professional, you’re working hard for your patients every day.
All of that patient care—walking, lifting, even sitting in front of the computer—can strain and even injure your body over time. So how do you avoid overuse injuries?
We asked Tae, an acute care, inpatient, and home health physical therapist at a regional hospital, for his top 5 ways that speech therapy professionals can protect their bodies at work.
For print-and-go speech therapy materials, check out the Adult Speech Therapy Starter Pack!
How Can SLPs Avoid Overuse Injuries?
Anyone who works all day is at risk for overuse injuries and muscle fatigue.
Staying in one position isn’t good for our bodies. It decreases circulation and fatigues our muscles, increasing the risk of injury. But walking and caring for patients all day can strain your back, extremities, and neck! What’s the balance between the two?
Use the tips below to protect yourself from common overuse injuries. If you spend most of your work day at your computer, see our Top Ergonomic Tips.
1. Sit (vs Lean Over Patients)
Pull up a stool or chair (or even carry a light portable stool) when working with patients. Leaning over patients or even standing beside them as you treat can fatigue your muscles.
2. Wear The Right Shoes
Support your feet so that your muscles don’t have to work so hard.
When you wear unsupportive shoes, your legs become fatigued. This can cause your arches to collapse, which can then lead to foot pain, knee pain, and back pain.
Here are Tae’s favorite brands for supportive—and stylish!—footwear:
Rothy’s is a sustainable company that uses recycled plastic to craft their supportive, environmentally friendly—and cute!—sneakers. They also offer discounts for medical professionals.
Not your mother’s arch-support sneakers!
Allbirds sells comfortable, supportive shoes that are also stylish. The company is also 100% carbon neutral and offers a modest discount for healthcare workers.
For the classic healthcare-worker-clog, look no further than Dansko. These seemingly indestructible shoes offer plenty of support for long days on your feet.
In Tae’s opinion, it’s also perfectly fine to wear a good pair of athletic sneakers that you wear only at work.
His favorite brands for athletic sneakers are On (Clouds), Hokas, and Brooks.
3. Carry Less Stuff in Your Shirt/Labcoat Pockets
It’s tempting to stuff our lab coat or shirt pockets with phones, pens, and other equipment as we travel from patient to patient.
But even the weight of these seemingly small items can fatigue your shoulders and neck. Over time, this can lead to neck, upper back, and/or upper extremity pain and tightness—and to headaches.
To avoid this continual pull on your neck, try carrying a bag, wearing a belt bag, or moving items to your pants pockets.
4. Take Breaks & Stretch!
If you sit for much of your work day, take a movement or stretch break every 30 minutes! Incorporate movement into your day to make sure you get those breaks:
- Stand when taking calls
- Walk over to talk to a coworker or go to the printer
- Drink lots of water so that you take more frequent bathroom breaks!
- Use the stairs when you can
- Set a reminder on your phone or computer
And if you have a very active job, take regular breaks too!
- Take a break from physical activity by sitting down to rest
- Take a sensory or mental health break by dimming the lights, going outside, eating a healthy snack, spending time alone, etc.
Stretches for Office Workers
Ergonomic specialist, Mitchell Voss, created a handout of stretches for office workers.
5. Be Careful When Transferring Patients
Follow your workplace’s guidelines for transferring patients.
At the very least, revisit any education they offer on safe transfers. And just say “no” if a patient requires a two-person assist, but no one is available to help.
Speech Therapy Exercises for Adults
For evidence-based patient handouts, worksheets, and much more, visit our shop!