4.1.3 Body Mechanics in Action

The use of good body mechanics is important in all activities and environments, but it is of higher importance in the medical field, where we are usually lifting and moving human beings instead of lifting and moving inanimate objects. Whereas in moving boxes you may potentially injure yourself by not using good body mechanics, when moving or lifting a client, you are in danger of injury to yourself and our clients.

Using “good” body mechanics means that you are practicing all of the following guiding principles:

  • using several muscle groups instead of one or two to combine strength with fluid movement
  • keeping good posture
  • maintaining a wide base of support
  • being aware of your current centre of gravity (the point where most weight is concentrated)
  • maintaining a close proximity to the person/object you are assisting or moving
  • turning the whole body instead of twisting
  • facing the direction you are moving to
  • balancing activity between arms and legs
  • reducing friction during movement to require less force to be needed and therefore less energy

Did You Know?

Using assistive devices like a slide sheet can reduce friction and thereby reduce the energy needed to complete a task.

Good posture refers to standing or sitting erect. According to Harvard Health (2017), good posture involves the components listed:

  • carry your chin parallel to the floor,
  • ensure your shoulders are even (roll your shoulders up, back, and down to help achieve this),
  • make sure you have a neutral spine (no flexing or arching to overemphasize the curve in your lower back),
  • hold your arms at your sides with elbows straight and even,
  • brace your abdominal muscles,
  • hold your hips even,
  • hold your knees even and pointing straight ahead,
  • distribute your body weight evenly on both feet, if standing,
  • keep your hips and knees at even height, and point your knees and feet straight ahead, if sitting.

Frequent practice of this stance through the day, along with regular stretching, will elongate your spine and realign your muscles, allowing your body to balance. This will make caring activities easier and safer.

Try working through the elements of good posture that were listed above, in order, adjusting your own body to make sure you have good posture. End this exercise by taking three deep breaths, and see the difference it makes!

For the purposes of this chapter, we will concentrate on lifting and moving of clients and the objects that it is expected you will encounter in daily care activities, but it is recommended that you complete a full body mechanics review to assist you with safe movements in other areas of your day.

Learn More

If you would like to complete a full review of body mechanics please watch this video lecture.

To begin, always wear non-slip shoes to keep a grip on the surface you are standing on, in order to reduce the chance of slipping which might create an injury. Plan what you are going to do ahead of time: have each step in your head prior to the action. Let the person you are with know what you are going to do and at what count (i.e., 1, 2, 3) things will happen. Push, pull or roll instead of lifting, if possible, to reduce the change of injury and reduce friction with the use of slide products if available.

Now, you will view a video from the field of Physical Therapy, showing the correct way to use body mechanics. Physical Therapists are a good resource to watch for body mechanics. They are also the best examples to learn from, as much of their program is involved with learning, using and teaching good body mechanics to others.  In this video, you will see examples of the potentially harmful way to move and the correct way to move for these client care examples.  In our next chapter, we will apply these principles to your own patient care considerations.

Click here for a video transcript in .docx format: Video Transcript


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