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When OTs Wore White Shoes

Body Mechanics

Published January 26, 2016 3:02 PM by Debra Karplus
A friend of mine had a successful career as a dental hygienist but ultimately needed to "retire" much sooner than she would have wanted to due to carpal tunnel syndrome and other problems in her wrists and hands which she attributes to the required body position necessary to perform the tasks of a dental hygienist. She pursued a completely different career as a librarian, which she insists has been far easier on her aging body than dentistry.

As I entered my dentist's office last week for a minor procedure, I thought back to my friend's situation and opted to pay close attention to the positioning of my dentist as he worked on my teeth.  But given the fact that he and his hygienist were literally "in my face", it was virtually impossible to pay attention to anything but the sound of the dentist's noisy little drill.

Occupational therapists and physical therapists presumably know the basics of body mechanics which fundamentally involves bending at the knees when lifting and being prudent while bending and twisting simultaneously.  But sometimes we are in a hurry, whether in our professional lives or personal lives; we don't pay attention, and we suffer a minor or more serious back injury.

In the 1990s, one of the jobs I performed as part of my occupational therapy practice was presenting in-services and workshops to companies, factories, and movers to train in proper body mechanics.  I had a sense that my services were requested not as part of some routine training but rather the result of some worker possibly having gotten hurt while on the job.  In any case, my services were well-received and I truly felt that I had made a difference, the underlying reason I chose to be an OT to begin with!

But recently, I have been wondering if training in ergonomics and body mechanics is part of the schooling of other health care professions.  OSHA (www.osha.gov) sets guidelines for training in blood borne pathogens for people working in health care and other professions such as teaching in a public school; most of us receive this training when we start a new OT job, including a short quiz that must be passed.  But what about training in body mechanics?

Many of our work places also require testing for tuberculosis (TB), which still seems a little odd to me, given that TB is no longer prevalent, and the irony that many people with more common contagious illnesses such as strep throat, the flu, and even bad colds show up at work and contaminate co-workers and patients by leaving their germs on various surfaces.

I'm digressing here.  But I guess the point that I am trying to make is that if ergonomics and body mechanics are not part of the coursework of other professions, particularly those in healthcare, maybe a new market for us as OTs would be to provide this training to our colleagues.

I'm curious if any OTs out there are already doing this.

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2 comments

Thanks for reading and commenting, Claire.

..Debbie Karplus, blog author

Debra Karplus February 11, 2016 2:01 PM

I have often thought about it too, especially since there is a company running a "Jumping Jitney" exercise program for local daycare centers out of a purple bus which my daughters used attend when they were in daycare.

I love positioning and am envisioning a mobile seating clinic.  I am currently in the process of learning to drive a school bus.

Claire Noelle Petrasic, semi-retired OT February 4, 2016 6:50 PM
Palmyra PA

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