It is important to use proper body mechanics as a health care professional for many reasons, foremost of which is to prevent injuries to both patient and provider. Health care professionals at the front line, especially those who deliver direct care to patients, are often in situations where they have to assist with moving patients from one position to another. Even offering an arm to help stabilize a patient could have disastrous results with inadequate knowledge of body mechanics.
You may also like: Top 20 Up and Coming Master’s Degree Programs in Healthcare Management
Body Mechanics Defined
Using the body to move objects with significant weight requires a coordinated effort of the human structure. Bones and muscles must move in tandem with the nervous system to maintain balance, preserve posture and ensure correct body alignment as one helps patients when they transfer from chair to bed, change position on the bed to facilitate examination or move around during therapy. With correct body mechanics, individuals should be able to work effectively without using excessive energy and without hyper-extending muscles and joints.
Body mechanics revolves around balance, proper alignment and coordinated movement. When the body is perfectly aligned, body parts are in position to create optimal balance and function. Correct alignment minimizes undue stress and strain on the muscles, joints, ligaments, and tendons whether one is seated, standing or lying down.
How to Apply the Principles of Body Mechanics
It is easier to maintain balance when the body is correctly aligned horizontally or vertically. Pay attention to the center of gravity, which is the center of weight of the person. Balance improves when the center of gravity is lower and closer to the base. This is easily achieved by bending the knees for instance. The base of support should be as wide as possible to provide a stable foundation as the weight shifts. This is achieved when both feet are firmly flat on the surface and positioned apart. To maintain posture, alignment and balance, imagine a vertical line going through the center of the body while in the process of moving.
Body Mechanics in the Health Care Setting
Health care professionals need to be aware of the physical stresses that their body is subjected to in the course of a day. When faced with a lifting or moving situation, assess the load with a critical eye to determine if assistance is needed. Whether one is lifting a toddler, a mobility-challenged adult or a load of supplies, make sure to use an assistant and the proper assistive equipment.
Stretching and twisting can shift the line of gravity away from the base support. Plan the movement and explain the process to the patient prior to commencing the action. Balance improves when the weight being moved is positioned closer to the body, which should remain adequately aligned if the person faces the direction of the movement. By bending at the knees, the weight shifts to the strong leg muscles instead of stressing the back. Never bend at the waist, and always work at waist level by adjusting bed height when possible.
A report from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration indicates that the most common injury suffered by health care professionals in hospital settings are sprains and strains, accounting for 54 percent of injury reports. Pain and soreness account for 10 percent and fracture injuries for 5 percent. This report underlines the importance of using proper body mechanics as a health care professional to prevent avoidable, on-the-job injuries and to protect the patient as well.