A comprehensive analysis of low-back disorder risk and spinal loading during the transferring and repositioning of patients using different techniques

Ergonomics. 1999 Jul;42(7):904-26. doi: 10.1080/001401399185207.


Although patient handlers suffer from low-back injuries at an alarming rate worldwide, there has been limited research quantifying the risk for the specific tasks performed by the patient handlers. The current study used both a comprehensive evaluation system (low-back disorder risk model) and theoretical model (biomechanical spinal loading model) to evaluate risk of LBD of 17 participants (12 experienced and five inexperienced) performing several patient handling tasks. Eight of the participants were female and nine were male. Several patient transfers were evaluated as well as repositioning of the patient in bed; these were performed with one and two people. The patient transfers were between bed and wheelchair (fixed and removable arms) and between commode chair and hospital chair. A 'standard' patient (a 50 kg co-operative female; non-weight bearing but had use of upper body) was used in all patient handling tasks. Overall, patient handling was found to be an extremely hazardous job that had substantial risk of causing a low-back injury whether with one or two patient handlers. The greatest risk was associated with the one-person transferring techniques with the actual task being performed having a limited effect. The repositioning techniques were found to have significant risk of LBD associated with them with the single hook method having the highest LBD risk and spinal loads that exceeded the tolerance limits (worst patient handling job). The two-person draw sheet repositioning technique had the lowest LBD risk and spinal loads but still had relatively high spinal loads and LBD risk. Thus, even the safest of tasks (of the tasks evaluated in this study) had significant risk. Additionally, the current study represented a 'best' case scenario since the patient was relatively light and co-operative. Thus, patient handling in real situations such as in a nursing home, would be expected to be worse. Therefore, to have an impact on LBD, it is necessary to provide mechanical lift assist devices.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Electromyography
  • Ergonomics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lifting*
  • Logistic Models
  • Low Back Pain / prevention & control*
  • Male
  • Patient Transfer*
  • Spinal Injuries / prevention & control*