Chapter 3: Safer Patient Handling, Positioning, Transfers and Ambulation

3.2 Body Mechanics

Critical Thinking Exercises: Questions, Answers, and Sources / References

Critical thinking questions are in bold type, and the answers are italicized. Additional resources or references are provided below.

  1. How do body alignment and body balance contribute to proper body mechanics?

Body mechanics is the coordinated effort of muscles, bones, joints, and the nervous system. When body mechanics are done correctly, body alignment and balance allow us to carry-out movements, without excessive energy output, and it helps to reduce injuries to ourselves and our patients.


Perry, A. G., Potter, P. A., & Ostendorf, W. R. (2017). Clinical nursing skills and techniques (9th ed.). Elsevier; Mosby.


2. John is asked to transfer a client from the bed to a stretcher. Name five principles of body mechanics John can implement to prevent an MSI.

Assess the environment. Assess the weight of the load before lifting, and determine if assistance is required.
Plan the move. Plan the move, gather all supplies, and clear the area of obstacles.
Avoid stretching and twisting. Avoid stretching, reaching, and twisting, which may place the line of gravity outside the base of support.
Ensure proper body stance.
  • Keep stance (feet) shoulder-width apart.
  • Tighten abdominal, gluteal, and leg muscles in anticipation of the move.
  • Stand-up straight to protect the back and provide balance.
Stand close to the object being moved.
  • Place the weight of the object being moved close to your centre of gravity for balance.
  • Remain as close to the person as possible when you are about to transfer. Use the long and strong muscles of arms and legs, not the back muscles.
Face direction of the movement. Facing the direction prevents abnormal twisting of the spine.
Avoid lifting.
  • Turning, rolling, pivoting, and leverage requires less work than lifting.
  • Do not lift if possible; use mechanical lifts as required.
  • Encourage the patient to help as much as possible.
  • Note: Some agencies have “NO LIFT” policies.
Work at waist level.
  • Keep all work at waist level to avoid stooping.
  • Raise the height of the bed or object if possible.
  • Do not bend at the waist.
Reduce friction between surfaces.
  • Reduce friction between surfaces so that less force is required to move the patient.
  • Special sliding sheets can be used to ease patient transfers, positioning.
Bend the knees. Bending the knees maintains your centre of gravity and lets the strong muscles of your legs do the lifting.
Push the object rather than pull it, and maintain continuous movement.
  • It is easier to push an object than to pull it.
  • Less energy is required to keep an object moving than it is to stop and start it.
Use assistive devices. Use assistive devices (gait belt, slider boards, mechanical lifts) as required to position patients and transfer them from one surface to another.
Work with others. The person with the heaviest load should coordinate all the effort of the others involved in the handling technique.


Berman, A., & Snyder, S. J. (2016). Skills in clinical nursing (8th ed.). Pearson.

Perry, A. G., Potter, P. A., & Ostendorf, W. R. (2017). Clinical nursing skills and techniques (9th ed.). Elsevier; Mosby.

Registered Nursing. (n.d.). Ergonomic principles: NCLEX-RN.

WorkSafeBC. (2013). Preventing musculoskeletal injury (MSI).

Sample Quiz Questions

  1. Describe musculoskeletal injury.

An injury or disorder of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints or nerves, blood vessels, or related soft tissue, including sprains, strains, or inflammation related to a work injury. MSIs are the most common health hazard for healthcare providers.


WorkSafeBC. (2013). Preventing musculoskeletal injury (MSI).


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