Importance of Proper Body Mechanics

“I hurt my back picking up a pencil”


Proper body mechanics is the single most important factor in avoiding physical injury when performing activities of daily living.  Best body mechanics emphasizes neutral positioning of the head and spine, wide diagonal stance and coupling of the head and foot.  For example, when you reach or lead with your right hand, you first position your left foot forward as close as you can to the object.  As the right hand approximates the object, the body as balanced by weight shifting into the left foot.  This eliminates or minimizes strain on your lower back.  When reaching to the floor level, lead the movement by lowering the hips while maintaining neutral position of the head and neck.  As the right hand reaches to floor level, it is greeted by the left foot.  This produces proper body mechanics of the spine and trunk minimizing intra-spinal disc pressure, spinal joint compression and muscle strain when performing the activities.

The body moves in multiple planes during an activity.  These planes are combined to be viewed as diagonal plane movements which require balance of the upper and lower body from right to left during these movements or activities.  Balancing forces from right to left means coupling the leading hand with the opposite foot whereby the opposite foot is placed next to the object that the hand is reaching for.

Example: Picking up a pencil with your right hand

Place your left foot next to the pencil then step back with your right foot.  Maintain your ears over your shoulders with back straight.  Begin the movement by bending and lowering the hips first, then reach with the right hand toward the left foot and pickup the pencil.  By maintaining a wide base of support and implementing the opposite hand and foot rule, the center of mass of the upper body is always maintained inside the base of support, eliminating unnecessary strain on the spine.

The opposite hand and foot rule is fundamental for safe raking, shoveling, sweeping, reaching, and lifting.

Always couple the leading hand on the shovel, rake, or broom, etc. with the opposite foot by bringing the opposite foot forward.  As the leading hand pushes and pulls on the handle, its forces are balanced by the forces of the opposite foot.  The opposite hand and foot placement may initially feel awkward or uncomfortable but that is simply because (almost) everyone inherently does it where the same side hand and foot are forward (the WRONG way).  This is mainly the reason why people develop back pain following activities such as shoveling, raking, twisting movements, etc. it is not inherent or reflexive to maintain proper body mechanics when performing these activities.  Proper body mechanics must be learned and practiced.

Proper Body Mechanics with Daily Activities is Our Educational Mission at Spine Tech.  Dr. L’Europa is a leader in ergonomic education and implementation of proper posture and best biomechanics for the work and athletic settings.

Come visit us for assessment of best posture and biomechanics for daily activities and sleep!


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