Body Mechanics


What are Body Mechanics? 

Body mechanics is an expression that is used to describe the ways we move as we go about our daily lives. Body mechanics entails how we hold our bodies when we:

  • stand
  • sit
  • carry
  • hold
  • bend
  • sleep


Improper body mechanics can often be the cause of back problems. When we do not move correctly and safely, the spine is often put through abnormal stresses that over a period time, which can lead to degeneration of our spinal structures, including the discs and joints. That is why it is so crucial to learn the principals of proper body mechanics.  

What are the 4 Components of Body Mechanics? 

The four components of body mechanics include posture, Base of support and center of gravity, muscle-groups, and lifting technique.  

1. Posture   

Posture refers to proper spinal alignment while sitting, standing and sleeping. The human spine is comprised of individual bones called vertebrae that are stacked on top of each other. These vertebrae form a natural "S" curve when they are properly aligned. You can sit with a small rolled towel behind your lower back to support your lumbar spine. With standing posture, you want to stand up straight with your ears, shoulders, hips and ankles in alignment with each other. In terms of sleeping, you want to ideally sleep on your back with a small pillow supporting your legs to reduce pressure on your lower spine. In regards to side sleeping, bend your knees and place a pillow between your legs to keep your spine straight.  To read more about the proper sitting posture, go to this ARTICLE.

Woman representing different ways and activities of correct and incorrect posture.Woman showing posture correction.

2. Base of Support and Center of Gravity 

Before lifting, pushing, or pulling it is advantageous to widen your base of support by placing your feet shoulder-width apart. To improve balance and reduce the risk of injury you can place one foot slightly in front of the other. To evenly distribute your weight keep your body centered over your feet.  When carrying objects keep them close to your body to bring its center of gravity as close as possible to your center of gravity.  

3. Muscle Groups 

In order to accomplish tasks to reduce risk of injury, it is imperative to use larger muscle groups in your arms, legs, and torso. For example, if you were to pick up a box from the floor, you would ideally squat down and use your legs to bring yourself upright instead of bending over and lifting the box with your arms.  To learn more about the proper lifting technique, please read this Proper Lifting Article.

4. Lifting Technique 

In order to protect the spine when lifting it is crucial to use good form. Good form entails 

  • Keep your back straight
  • Squatting down to the level of the object you want to lift before lifting
  • Do not to bend at the waist
  • Pull the object close to your body before standing.  
  • Draw in your abdominal muscles as you rise to stand.

If there is no way to avoid bending bending then you can use a "golfer's lift". With a golfers lift you straighten one leg and lift it backwards as you bend forward. This will prevent your spine from bending and reduce your risk of injury. 


Why is Body Mechanics Important to Healthcare Workers? 

It is imperative to use proper body mechanics as a health care professional for numerous reasons. First and foremost it is important to use proper body mechanics as a healthcare professional in order to prevent injuries to both the patient and provider. Health care professionals are at the front line, particularly those who deliver direct care to patients. These healthcare professionals are often in situations where they must assist with moving patients from one position to another. Something as simple as offering an arm to help stabilize a patient could have disastrous results if you do not use proper body mechanics.

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By: Justin Carmel, PT, DPT

Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute

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