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Using Good Body Mechanics


What are body mechanics? Body mechanics refers to the way we move during every day activities. Good body mechanics may be able to prevent or correct problems with posture (the way you stand, sit, or lie.) Good body mechanics may also protect your body, especially your back, from pain and injury. Using good body mechanics is important for everyone.

Why do I need to have good body mechanics?

  • Having your body in the right position helps protect your back and allows you to use your body in a safe way. Your spine goes through the midline of your back, giving your back stability and controlling it's movement. Your spine is made up of:

    • Thirty-three bones called vertebrae. These bones are stacked on top of each other in a line. The line goes from the base of your skull to your rear-end.

    • Shock absorbers called disks. Disks lie between the vertebrae, and cushion and protect the vertebrae. They also allow some movement of the spine.

    • Spinal cord and nerves. The spinal cord sends messages from your brain to your body. The spinal cord is protected by the vertebrae, and is surrounded by spinal fluid.

    • Small joints. Joints allow movement and help to stabilize your body.

    • Muscles and ligaments. Ligaments support and strengthen joints. Muscles and ligaments provide strength and power, support and stability.

  • Injury to the spine may cause problems such as a loss of feeling, movement, and strength. There may also be problems with the organs in your body, and a loss of normal body functions. These functions may include going to the bathroom, swallowing, or breathing. Good body mechanics are important because they will help protect your spine and other parts of your body from injury.

  • When caring for a person who is recovering from an illness it is important to use good body mechanics. You may need this when helping a person get in and out of bed, into a chair, walk, or just move around the house. You may also need to push a person in a wheel chair or move the person in bed.

How do I practice good body mechanics? A caregiver called a Physical Therapist may teach you good body mechanics. Following are some steps to help you with good body mechanics:

  • When standing:

    • Wear shoes. They protect your feet from injury, give you a firm foundation, and keep you from slipping.

    • Keep your feet flat on the floor separated about 12 inches (30 cm).

    • Keep your back straight.

  • When walking:

    • Keep your back straight as you walk.

    • If helping a person to walk you may need one arm around the back of the person. Put the other arm at the side or ready to help the person if needed.

  • When lifting an object:

    • Your feet should be apart, in a standing position.

    • Keep your back straight.

    • Lower your body to get close to the object.

    • Bend from your hips and knees. DO NOT bend at the waist.

    • When turning, rotate your whole body, not just your back.

    • Hold the object by putting your hands around it.

    • Keeping your knees bent and your back straight, lift the object using your arm and leg muscles. Do not use your back muscles.

    • If the object is too heavy ask another person to help you.

    • Many devices are available to help move or lift heavy objects. If you need help from a device, ask caregivers how to get one.

  • When carrying an object:

    • Hold the object close to your body.

    • DO NOT carry things that are too heavy for you. Always ask for help to move heavy objects.

    • There are many devices available to help carry heavy objects. If you need help from a device, ask caregivers how to get one.

  • Pushing or pulling:

    • Use the weight of your body to help push or pull an object.

    • Your feet should be apart as in the standing position.

    • Keep your back straight.

    • Lower your body to get close to the object. Bend from your hips and knees. DO NOT bend at the waist.

    • If the object or person you are pulling or pushing is too heavy ask someone to help you.

    • There are many devices available to help you move, push or pull heavy objects. If you need help from a device, ask caregivers how to get one.

  • Sitting:

    • If you can, sit on a hard chair with a straight back. Put a pillow or rolled towel to support your lower back.

    • When you sit for a long time, raise one leg higher than the other to help keep from getting tired. This can be done by putting the leg on a footstool.

    • If doing something, such as reading or knitting, put a pillow on your lap to raise the items closer to you. This will help keep your back straight.

    • When you are driving, adjust the seat to a comfortable distance to the wheel. Sit back in the seat so your knees are even with the seat.

  • Sitting at a desk:

    • Sit in your chair with your back straight and with support in your lower back.

    • Do not sit for long periods of time. Get up and change positions.

    • Ask your caregiver for special exercises to stretch the muscles in your neck.

    • Adjust the monitor of your computer so that the top is at the same level as your eyes.

    • Use a paper holder so that the document is at the same level as the computer screen.

    • Use a headset or the phone speaker if you use the telephone often.

  • To position a person on his side in bed:

    • Ask or help the person to bend their knees.

    • Put a soft pillow between the knees.

  • To position a person on his back with the bed flat:

    • Put a pillow under the person's head.

    • A rolled towel may be used to support the lower back.

    • A small pillow can be put under the calves and ankles to raise the heels off the bed. A padded footboard may be attached to the bed to keep the feet straight. Ask your caregiver for more information about how to use bed cradles and footboards.

  • To position a person on his back with the head of the bed raised:

    • Put one or more pillows behind the head and shoulders.

    • A pillow may be put under the knees to bend them a little.

    • You may add a footboard to keep the feet in place.


You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your illness, injury, surgery, or procedure, and good body mechanics. You can then discuss your treatment and care options with your caregivers. You always have the right to refuse treatment.The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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