There is a popular belief among massage therapists that developing good body mechanics is the key to preventing common work-related injury. But there is no research to back up this claim; in fact, research shows that body mechanics by itself does not prevent injury. There are several reasons why:
1. Good body mechanics only addresses a few of the risk factors for injury, including awkward postures and hand force. Other risk factor exposures, including repetitive movements or the presence of personal risk factors like a previous injury, can still cause injury.
2. You can still overuse a part of your body even if you have good body mechanics.
3. You can get injured by suddenly increasing the number of massages you do in a day or week, even if you have good body mechanics.
4. Your workspace setup may make it impossible to use good body mechanics; for example, if you don’t have enough space around your table.
5. In reality, even with the best intentions, no one uses good body mechanics at all moments. Even the most experienced therapist who has had a great deal of body mechanics training will still get into awkward postures sometimes.
Because there are so many different reasons therapists get injured, it is unlikely that any one strategy, like using good body mechanics, can address all of them and keep you healthy. For this reason, the only strategy that has been proven to work in decades of research is a holistic, multifaceted approach combining the use of good body mechanics with good ergonomics (workplace setup, scheduling, etc.), healthy self-care (getting enough rest, not smoking, etc.), good physical conditioning (exercise, stretches, endurance, etc.), awareness of injury risk factors and treating symptoms early and effectively.
Reproduced with permission from Save Your Hands! The Complete Guide to Injury Prevention and Ergonomics for Manual Therapists, 2nd Edition , C.E.A.S., and Richard W. Goggins, C.P.E., L.M.P., © 2008 Gilded Age Press. For more information, visit www.saveyourhands.com.