Rules of Body Mechanics When Lifting Patients

Close-up of mid adult doctor and young nurse helping mature woman out of wheelchair

Transferring patients--from bed to chair, chair to gurney, and so on--is a basic skill of the health professions. Everyone from EMTs to MDs have to know how to do it. It is simple, but if done incorrectly, it can result in painful injuries that can sideline workers for months, or even permanently. To prevent this from happening to you, follow a few simple rules of body mechanics

Never Lift With Your Back

When lifting a heavy person, never bend over from the waist, grab him and use your back muscles to lift him. This action can cause severe and intense injury to your back, and the damage will take a long time to heal. You may even drop your patient.

Lift With Your Legs

Keep your back straight and use your quads to carry the weight of the person you are lifting. Hold the patient while keeping your knees bent, and use your leg muscles to straighten and lift your patient. This is best accomplished by keeping your patient as close to you as you can as you move straight up.

Limit Twisting Motions

Twisting while holding a person or any heavy object forces your back, hip and leg muscles to become vulnerable as they try to manage and counterbalance the weight you are carrying. Pivot your entire body if you have to.

Engage Your Stomach Muscles

Engaging your stomach muscles while lifting helps protect the back and prevent injury. Use your core muscles when lifting from the legs to ensure that your back isn't getting strained.

Lift Close to Your Body

The closer you are to the person you are lifting, the easier it will be for you to use your legs and avoid throwing out your back muscles. Limit the action of carrying or transferring someone at arm's length as much as possible.

Use Smooth Movements

Don't rush or make jerky movements that may unexpectedly strain your muscles. Have a strategy of where and how you will properly lift the patient ahead of time.

Let the Patient Help, If He Can

If the patient is mobile and can support himself somewhat, ask or allow him to help by bearing some of his own weight, if he can safely do so. This will require some communication and knowledge of the patient's condition, but it is much easier than trying to lift a dead weight yourself.

Know Your Limits

If you are lifting a person and you can barely manage, get help. Do not try to go it alone; you will only injure yourself and possibly the patient. It is possible to transfer a somewhat mobile patient alone, but a transfer when the patient is lying down will always require more than one person.