Watch Your Back

Its slightly ironic that as I write this post, I am lying on my couch, heating pad on my back, and a cat on my lap holding me firmly to it.  Yes, I, like many in EMS, have a bad back, and an old nagging injury has reared its ugly head.  Thankfully, my flareups are few and far between (knock on wood) but they still happen, and when they do, they suck.

The strives that we have made in back safety in EMS during my career have been huge.  We have added a number of devices to help us along: stair chairs with tracks on them, stretchers with hydrolics that are raised and lowered at the touch of a button. even stretchers that load themselves.  In Australia, ergonomics is extremely important to EMS.  They are using lifting techniques, slide sheets, and moves that I hope one day make their way over here to the western world as it would do nothing but benefit us.  Still though, the possibility for a back injury exists, and I feel that the biggest risk comes from a topic that is currently extremely controversial: backboarding.

So how does backboarding a patient result in potentially landing on one yourself?  Think about lifting a backboard that is flat on the ground.  Think about how difficult it is to use a proper lifting technique to get that board up.  I am 6’5″ (although I claim I am 5’9″) and let me tell you, its a long way down for me to get that backboard.  I don’t enjoy it, and my lifting technique admittedly probably is not the best, but I do the best I can with the body and its mechanics that I was given.  The lesson for this one is simple: do the best that you can, and make sure you have enough help if needed.  Keep the stretcher as low as possible (all the way down if it is not a manual one) and try and minimize the lift as best you can.

Most of all though, don’t let yourself get complacent.  When we are not lifting as much as we used to we get comfortable with that, and when it comes to lifting, doing it with the right body mechanics that lack of practice could effect us.  Don’t let those strives that we have made in back safety be your biggest downfall.  Learn to lift properly, and do it that way every single time.

I am thankful to say that I will make a full recovery from this little set back (no pun intended) but it is a staunch reminder of the need to be careful and to lift properly in every situation.

Do me a favor, be mindful of how you lift.  It will prevent each lift from being your last.


  1. Railrob /

    Does your back ijury relate to lifting way to many 12 ounce weights in Baltimore?

  2. Anonymous /

    Funny thing is you’re the second person to ask me that. . .

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