The basic principles of good body mechanics apply to disabled as well as non-disabled individuals. However, polio survivors have individual patterns of muscle weakness and unique ways of compensating, so there are no 'cookbook' rules that apply to everyone. Here are some general principles that apply to most of us.
- Good posture uses less energy than 'slumping' and helps prevent muscle tension, fatigue, backaches and neck pain.
- Sitting or standing up straight balances your body on its own bony framework. The further you move from this position, as when you droop or slouch, the more your muscles have to work to counteract gravity.
SIT INSTEAD OF STAND WHEREVER POSSIBLE
- It takes approximately 25% more energy to perform an activity standing than sitting.
- Sitting decreases the demand on the cardio-vascular system and relieves the weight bearing joints of the lower extremities.
- Sit during meal preparation, while you work on hobbies in the garage, when you shave, apply make up or style your hair, or work in the garden.
- When sitting brings your work surface too high (like preparing meals at the kitchen counter or doing hobbies on a workbench), a drafting chair with a pneumatic lift, a footrest and adjustable backrest works well. The one drawback is that you have to raise the seat before you sit down. Push the chair back into a corner while you get on it so it doesn't roll out from under you.
LIFTING AND UNLIFTING
(SETTING THE LOAD DOWN)
- Incorrect movements squander energy and can cause back injuries. Before starting to lift, assess the situation. How heavy is the load? Will you need to carry it? How far?
- Articles on body mechanics say to lift with the legs, not the back. Many of us can't do that. So if the load is on the floor, sit on a chair and push the load with your foot, crutch or cane to estimate the weight. If it feels ok, get your chair close to it, lift it onto your lap, then place it on a shelf, table or cart next to you. Do not stand up while you are holding the load.
- To lower loads that are above your shoulders, test the weight first by pushing up on it. Keep the load close to your body while letting it slide down, then put onto a shelf, table or cart. Do not lift heavy items over your head; ask for help. For lifting and unlifting, remember to:
Test the weight first Keep it close to the body
Have a surface ready to receive the load.
USE MECHANICAL HELP FOR CARRYING
- Carrying objects changes your centre of gravity and can stress your arms and overuse your leg muscles. Here are three inexpensive items which can lessen your energy output.
1. A kitchen utility cart on casters, available in most houseware departments. Just one trip with the cart can transport dishes, silverware, food to the table and back again. Use the cart to carry laundry or cleaning items. Push it along when you straighten the house, for putting things in their proper place.
2. A collapsible grocery cart on wheels to keep in your car - use it when no one else is available to bring in the bags.
3. A lightweight luggage cart is useful for many things besides traveling. Take it to the mall (shops) to carry your purchases. Use it for transporting articles from room to room and between the house, car, or office. Keep the cart open and in a central location, ready to use at all times.