5 ways to avoid back, leg & knee injury

Strained back. Weak knees. Pains in the legs.

At 55, I consider myself fortunate. I’m a certified nursing assistant who has spent the better part of 20-plus years lifting, transferring, and rolling over patients taller and heavier than me. Yet, I’ve never had any back or leg problems; and the only knee problems I’ve ever had were the result of non-supportive sneakers and running too hard. One good reason for my good fortune is: good body mechanics.

I Lift with my legs, not the back

Of course the ideal way to move any patient who cannot bear enough weight on their feet to hold themselves up is with another person. However, with good body mechanics it is possible attempt this alone if the patient is not too heavy. With one private duty case, I was able to transfer my 6 foot – 175 pound patient from the wheelchair to his bed by positioning my arms under his armpits, bending my knees enough to feel it in my quadriceps and lifting him to a standing position. This way, I feel NO strain whatsoever in my back because my thighs are bearing the weight.

Avoid twisting just the upper body/jerking movements

I’ve seen more than one coworker lift with their backs, twist (rotate) only their upper bodies, and jerk the patient from the wheelchair to the bed. They have the idea that it’s best to get it done fast – without taking the time out for good body mechanics. These same coworkers all have back issues. It’s better to take the time to plant feet properly – wide apart – and get as close to the patient as possible to secure a good hold before attempting to lift. And then move feet to twist the entire body, not just the torso.

Tighten Tummy Muscles

I discovered this little tidbit by accident. I was behind my patient’s hospital bed, my hands under his arms about to pull him up in the bed. Sucking in my tummy AND bending my knees kept any strain away from my back and surprisingly I felt stronger when I pulled him up in the bed. I’m sure this is because our tummy (or abdominal) muscles and back muscles are connected, and when the focus is on tightening the abdominal muscles, we’re using those muscles to pull or lift. Google is loaded with core-strengthening muscle workouts, but here’s one.

Use the WHOLE body

This is a biggie for me. As a private duty nursing assistant, I’m constantly moving my patient’s bed – with him in it – to pull him up if he slides down in the bed. When I do this, I grab the headboard and brace my whole body against the bed rails to pull the bed from against the wall. This method also helps me at home when I’m pulling my futon away from the wall for my grandchildren.

Exercises to aid good body mechanics

  1. Kettlebell training: The kettlebell swing especially will strengthen core, back, and quadriceps.
  2. Squats: Not my favorite exercise but they do wonders for strengthening quadriceps, which protect the knees so that bending your knees to lift is easier.
  3. Any yoga routine: bodyweight training works every muscle in your body. Yoga is great for aiding in good body mechanics

Happy lifting!:)

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