Put it in Neutral
I often get asked, "what is the most important thing when trying to practice ergonomically?"
That's a tough question to answer because I consider all aspects of ergonomics to be crucial. However, if I had to choose, I would say learning about and incorporating neutral posture.
Most of us learned about neutral posture in school, but some of us (myself included) may have forgotten it over the years.
So what exactly is neutral posture?
Simply put, neutral posture is the healthiest and most stable posture for us. It allows the skeleton to hold us up, instead of our soft tissues. When we rely on our bones to hold us up and resist gravity, we can maintain that posture for a long time without feeling pain or fatigue.
What happens when we aren't in neutral?
When we start to deviate from neutral, that is called "awkward posture." Think forward head posture, slouching, and abducting our arm (chicken wing). All of these postures DO NOT use skeletal strength and instead rely on our soft tissues to maintain that very unhealthy posture. This is why we start feeling pain and eventually get injured.
Are there guidelines for neutral posture?
It's easy to determine posture when looking at the profile view. For example, if you're standing, the ear should be in line with the shoulder, which is then in line with the hip and the foot. Thus, there should be a straight line from the ear, shoulder, hip, and foot. When seated, the concept is the same; the ear, shoulder, and hip should all be in alignment (see pic at beginning of post).
Neutral posture is something I work with my clients on when coaching them. It's easy for me to just tell clinicians to sit up straight, but how can we do that when we have a patient's head in our lap? This is one of my favorite things to teach. It may seem impossible but it isn't!
I've also created a FREE operator positioning course that goes over neutral posture in-depth!
Next time you're in the op, think about establishing neutral posture before you begin to work on your patient. It's a great habit to get into and will save your body in the long run!