March 29, 2023

What are Body Mechanics?

For a healthcare professional, a firm and practical understanding of body mechanics can save a lot of unnecessary pain and injury throughout their career. This term describes the natural posture and motion of the human body, particularly as it relates to lifting, repositioning, and movement. Employees of a clinic or hospital need to know how to use their bodies to get the most leverage without risking injury. They also need to know how to position the patient to keep them comfortable and safe while they are being moved.

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Significance in Healthcare Settings

Anyone in any type of occupation or industry can benefit from an understanding of the mechanics of the human body. Good posture and lifting habits greatly reduce the risk of strains, sprains and back injuries. Nurses and many other healthcare professionals routinely help patients through a range of different motions that can exert either party if executed improperly. Musculoskeletal injuries are an occupational hazard in many healthcare settings, so employees should be trained on how to use the principles of body mechanics to ensure personal safety.

Proper Posture and Ergonomics

Body mechanics is a combination of posture, balance and motion, all of which influence coordinated movement and stress placed on the body. Maintaining good posture while standing or sitting is an acquired skill that requires practice and training. Keeping shoulder blades together, head straight and preserving the three natural spinal curves are all basics of good body alignment. Employees should keep their knees slightly bent and engage their leg and abdominal muscles whenever they lift heavy loads.

Using Aids and Devices

Depending on their role and responsibilities, a practicing healthcare professional should also be familiar with a few tools and devices that ease patient movement. A gait or transfer belt is a wide, flexible belt that stabilizes both parties during assisted motion. Slider or transfer boards are also an invaluable asset when moving incapacitated or severely injured patients, allowing providers to briefly lift and slide the person onto a mobile platform. Some hospitals and clinics are also equipped with mechanical lifts that harness machine power to bear the bulk of the burden during lifting operations.

Risk Factors and Considerations

Up to 80 percent of adults experience back pain at some point during their life and there are many risk factors that complicate these injuries, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health. Being overweight, lacking muscle strength and smoking are all common risk factors that place healthcare workers at higher risk of injury. Previous injuries and poor posture habits are also leading contributors to pain or further damage to bones, ligament, and muscles. General physical fitness and proper nutrition are both invaluable assets for healthcare workers who lift or move patients as part of their job.

The human body has dozens of muscle groups, various types of joints and complex weight distribution. Understanding and utilizing the principles of body mechanics is no simple task, but any healthcare professional should at least know enough to minimize the risk of personal and patient injury during routine activities.