Many patient care activities require the nurse to push, pull, lift, and carry. By using proper body mechanics, the nurse can avoid musculoskeletal injury and fatigue and reduce the risk of injuring patients. Correct body mechanics can be summed up in three principles, as presented below.
Keep a low center of gravity by flexing the hips and knees instead of bending at the waist. This position distributes weight evenly between the upper and lower body and helps maintain balance.
Create a wide base of support by spreading the feet apart. This tactic provides lateral stability and lowers the body's center of gravity.
Maintain proper body alignment and keep the body's center of gravity directly over the base of support by moving the feet rather than twisting and bending at the waist.
Follow the directions below to push, pull, stoop, lift, and carry correctly.
Pushing and pulling correctly
- Stand close to the object, and place one foot slightly ahead of the other, as in a walking position. Tighten the leg muscles and set the pelvis by simultaneously contracting the abdominal and gluteal muscles.
- To push, place your hands on the object and flex your elbows. Lean into the object by shifting weight from the back leg to the front leg, and apply smooth, continuous pressure.
- To pull, grasp the object and flex your elbows. Lean away from the object by shifting weight from the front leg to the back leg. Pull smoothly, avoiding sudden, jerky movements.
- After you've started to move the object, keep it in motion; stopping and starting uses more energy.
- Stand with your feet 10â€³ to 12â€³ (25 to 30 cm) apart and one foot slightly ahead of the other to widen the base of support.
- Lower yourself by flexing your knees, and place more weight on the front foot than on the back foot. Keep the upper body straight by not bending at the waist.
- To stand up again, straighten the knees and keep the back straight.
Lifting and carrying correctly
- Assume the stooping position directly in front of the object to minimize back flexion and avoid spinal rotation when lifting.
- Grasp the object, and tighten your abdominal muscles.
- Stand up by straightening the knees, using the leg and hip muscles. Always keep your back straight to maintain a fixed center of gravity.
- Carry the object close to your body at waist heightâ€”near the body's center of gravityâ€”to avoid straining the back muscles.
- Wear shoes with low heels, flexible nonslip soles, and closed backs to promote correct body alignment, facilitate proper body mechanics, and prevent accidents.
- When possible, pull rather than push an object because the elbow flexors are stronger than the extensors.
- When doing heavy lifting or moving, remember to use assistive or mechanical devices, if available, or obtain assistance from coworkers; know your limitations and use sound judgment.