Guest Columnist: Janet M. Caputo, PT, OCS
Proper body mechanics are based on good posture. Proper body mechanics involve maintaining a neutral spine with transitions from one position to another during daily activities.
Sitting to lying
Place hands on side to lie down towards. Lower upper body down with hands while bringing legs up with hips/knees at right angles. Reverse for lying to sitting.
Rolling from back to side
Bend hips/knees to right angles. Roll like a log (hips/shoulders move as a unit) onto side. Do not twist!
Sit to stand
Move buttocks to edge of chair. Feet apart. Incline trunk at hips. Maintain hollow in lower back. Stand up by straightening hips/knees simultaneously. Pushing up with hands on armrests or thighs can assist.
Seated at desk/computer
Face work directly. To eliminate reaching, sit close. Tilt wok up with easel/holder. To eliminate twisting, consider chair that rolls/pivots. A headset avoids cradling phone. Put monitor at eye level. Attach a document holder to side of monitor. Consider an articulating arm or drawer under desk top to house keyboard at correct height for working.
Seatback should be vertical. Back/neck supported with chin level. Move seat close to allow knees to bend and feet to reach pedals. Knees are at same height or slightly higher than hips. With hands on wheel elbows are slightly bent and relaxed. Place hands on wheel at 9 and 3 o’clock to relax shoulders. A lumbar roll is recommended.
Face work directly. Adjust height of table to allow good posture. If not possible, get closer to work by sitting/kneeling. Elevate one foot on a stool or box (weight shift). Change feet every 5 to 15 minutes.
- Perform “waiter’s bow”: bend at hips with arch in low back. Buttocks moves backward as trunk inclines forward. Head forward/feet apart.
- Perform weight-lifter’s squat: assume waiter’s bow position then squat as if sitting. Knees should not go past toes. Buttocks should stick out with arch in low back. The bow and squat will become one motion. Head forward and feet apart.
Lifting from floor
Push with foot to determine feasibility (if large in size/awkward in shape get assistance). Get close to/directly facing object. Feet apart, one ahead of the other with toes out. Perform weight-lifter’s squat. Tighten stomach muscles and lift using leg muscles. Do not look down. Hips/knees should straighten simultaneously. Stand upright without twisting/jerking. Reverse this procedure to lower object.
Lifting lightweight object
- Perform golfer’s lift: Face the object. Place body weight on one leg. Place opposite hand on a sturdy object for balance. Slightly bend the weighted knee. As trunk inclines forward from hip allow unweighted leg to extend backwards. Reverse the steps to return to standing.
Lifting from table/counter
Get close to/directly facing object. Feet apart. Use waiter’s bow to slide object to edge. Then follow “lifting from floor”.
Hold object at belly button with elbows bent. Keep stomach muscles tight. Take small, slow steps. To change directions, use feet to pivot.
Reaching and lifting
If higher than nose, use stepstool/ladder. Get close to object. Slide object close to edge. Lift with elbows bent and with two hands.
Easiest at waist height.
Never pull! Use leg muscles/body weight to move object. Get close to and in line with object. Same body mechanics hold for pushing as bending/lifting.
Coughing and sneezing
Stand up and bend slightly backwards to increase curve in lower back.
Performing tasks on floor/ground
Consider all fours position since kneeling/squatting can injure the knees.
Good posture for prolonged periods or repetitive activity even with good body mechanics induces abnormal stresses on the body and leads to pain. Therefore, take breaks and move every fifteen to thirty minutes. This will help prevent muscle fatigue/tightness, joint stiffness, and reduced circulation.
Next week, Ergonomics – How to adapt your environment to encourage good body mechanics.