Beyond Body Mechanics, Dynamic Human Learning


In Daniel Zwerdling’s recent NPR article entitled “Even ‘Proper’ Technique Exposes Nurses’ Spines To Dangerous Forces”, William Marras, the director of the Spine Research Institute at The Ohio State University states: “The bottom line is, there’s no safe way to lift a patient manually…There’s no safe way to do it with body mechanics.”

I agree that relying on “body mechanics” to safely lift a patient is not sufficient to prevent injury.

I disagree that there is no safe way to lift a patient manually.

While using technology and machines to assist with lifting in hospitals can be very useful, we still need to change how people approach the physical activity of lifting and more fundamentally, how people think about our bodies and “body mechanics”.

The article states that nurses are being taught “proper body mechanics”  that have been taught for over 100 years. Perhaps it is time to update this framework of thinking and teaching “body mechanics”. Otherwise, new injuries are bound to still occur as nurses and staff try to use “proper body mechanics” while manuevering the machines.

I am an experienced Feldenkrais Practitioner®, a method of movement education, with a black belt in Aikido, and years of studies in Formative Psychology®. I have taught many Transfer Trainings to staff who work with clients in wheelchairs.

Teaching “proper body mechanics” is not sufficient to insure safe lifting. Our bodies are not machines and how we move is not just mechanical. Our warm bodies are over 70% fluid. We are living, pulsing, beings that pressure, pump and circulate our fluids as we move. We can influence how we lift something or someone not only by how we align our muscles and bones, but also by how we organize our whole selves— how we create and shift pressure in different parts of ourselves, how we internally stabilize and mobilize our efforting, how we distribute our efforting within our own bodies, how we connect with the person we are lifting, and how we shape the situation in which we lift. We are human beings lifting other human beings. This is beyond mechanics, this is dynamic human learning. And this needs to be a part of all lifting trainings.

This kind of lifting training must go beyond “proper body mechanics” and includes an updated, experiential understanding of human anatomy and physiology as it applies to patient-caregiver interactions.








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  • Thank you Sonja. I would add that nurses also need to be trained in listening to the patient. Some injuries occur because the patient is scared or even knows that the technique about to be used is wrong for them. In addition, they also need better coaching skills for the patient. I have watched some great transfers and some near disasters. The near disasters were poorly set up from the beginning without a dynamic relational between nurse, patient and the environment.


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