How much does your head weigh?

Gong Life Care Solutions - Maintaining Good Body Posture

How much does your head weigh?

The importance of maintaining good body posture

Whether we’re talking about the workplace or the home, we all know what happens if we don’t take care of our body alignment. Many problems stem from the fact that our head weighs several kilograms - approximately 4-5 kilograms, equal to a small 10-pin bowling ball apparently!  So even sitting at a desk or leaning over a work-bench for long periods without a break can cause neck and back problems. These days using our small mobile devices involves leaning our head downwards to text or read. This puts huge forces on the neck vertebrae and muscles. 

The team at Gong Life Care Solutions talk to many people who are carers of elderly people or people with disabilities in workplaces or in the home context. We know that employment in a caring role or caring for someone at home nearly always includes tasks that are physical. In an employment situation these physical tasks would be called “manual handling tasks” and are covered by Acts of law in the various states of Australia, and have legal definitions. The need for a legal framework has arisen because of the number of injuries sustained by employees due to manual handling tasks - particularly injuries to backs. These tasks include activities such as helping someone get out of bed, into a chair or wheelchair, or into a shower or bath, ie moving people.

Legal framework

In laws which apply in Australia (in respect of workplaces), a “hazardous manual task” is where you have to lift, lower, push, pull, carry, hold or restrain something.  These days there is no specific legal weight limit for lifting, although this was the case some years ago. Whilst the laws clearly prescribe the various responsibilities in the workplace, many injuries still occur, mostly musculoskeletal injuries. However for ordinary community members looking after themselves or someone they care for at home, it is not always clear how to manage certain tasks without strain or awkwardness that could lead to injury.  It is often not clear who to turn to for advice or even training on the use of equipment, or techniques for lifting, and so on. And there is always the stress and pressure of completing many activities in a busy schedule.

Improving posture and safety

Gong Life Care Solutions staff highly recommend talking with your GP or your health or disability support worker for information on how to seek advice from experts on using equipment correctly, or carrying out physical tasks more safely, as a carer. This would most likely be an Occupational Therapist, a Physiotherapist or a Nurse. 

Some general recommendations for improving your posture can be found on the Australian government health website called Healthdirect.  It is just a 4-minute read (or listen) and contains valuable tips for various situations that involve lifting. Specifically, when standing or walking, try to keep your back straight, your head facing forward, shoulders down and relaxed, and your weight balanced evenly on your two feet.  When seated, keep your back straight, with your bottom seated right back at the back of the chair. Try to keep your knees and your hips level, and your feet flat on the ground. You may need a footrest to keep your hips and knees level. If you sit for long periods you should support your lower back against the back of your chair, such as with a small rolled up towel, or commercial product. These guidelines need to be varied for different contexts, eg for those who have physical disabilities or mobility issues.

Safe lifting and moving

One of the most common causes of lower back injury is inappropriate lifting technique.   The Australian Physiotherapy resource group state that safe lifting is vital to minimize stress on the spine, thereby reducing the likelihood of lower back injury and lower back pain. They list some key safe lifting points for lifting objects, that would also apply to other tasks such as moving or pushing or pulling something, or indeed, a person. It is not safe for one person to lift another person alone or without proper equipment.

Imagine we are talking about folding and then lifting a foldable wheelchair into the boot of a car.

Tips:

  • keep your body as close as possible to the object to be lifted or moved
  • position your feet at least shoulder width apart for stability
  • bend your knees to pick up or move the object, keeping your back straight
  • maintain a nice ‘long’, straight spine throughout the lift
  • never lift anything that is too heavy
  • always ask for assistance with lifting wherever possible
  • use appropriate tools to help with lifting and transporting heavy objects (e.g. trolleys etc.)

 Gong Life Care Solutions - Innovative product design

We have a range of specialised products for use either in aged care facilities or in private homes, to assist independence and increase mobility.  If you are caring for yourself or someone else at home, and are interested in safer bathing or showering, getting around the house with a lightweight indoor rollator, or sitting more comfortably in bed or chair, talk to us about how our products can meet your needs.

Our range of products has been designed specifically with both the user and carer in mind. Our Aquabuddy-Home shower system was designed for assistants/carers to use in place of traditional assisted bathing and showering aids and methods, either in aged care facilities or at home. In nursing homes, residents who are sick, frail, or not able to walk, are transferred to the bathroom using shower trolleys or commode chairs. The use of shower trolleys in private homes is often not feasible due to their size.

You can see a demonstration video of the Aquabuddy-Home system in use, on our webpage: https://gonglcs.com.au/products/aquabuddy-home-shower-in-your-bed

It is a practical solution for washing or showering people whose mobility is limited, in a way that is safe for the receiver and also for the care-giver.  It is portable – the main unit has 4 swivel wheels, and is lightweight.  For good posture, the user will keep the person they are showering close to the edge of the bed, raise the bed height if this is possible, and reach lower by keeping the back straight and using the leg muscles (as per safe lifting and moving tips above). 

Our Strongback wheelchairs have many design features to assist both users and carers. These wheelchairs are designed to provide ergonomic posture support for the person sitting in the chair. In addition they are ultra-lightweight, compact and foldable, and therefore far easier for carers to manage without straining their backs (always remembering good posture in lifting anything – bend the knees, relax the neck).

Another innovative product is our KMINA indoor rollator/wheelie-walker which is fully adjustable, enables any user to adapt it easily to the correct height for themselves, thus allowing good tall posture - as far as ability allows. It is light-weight and easily foldable - again, minimising the likelihood of back injury. The same manufacturer, KMINA, also make crutches, which are known as platform crutches. They incorporate tilted forearm support, which properly distributes the weight of the body. Studies have shown that underarm crutches do not encourage correct posture due to frequent incorrect adjustment or use (leading to compression of the radial nerve, otherwise known as “crutch palsy”).  However because of the much lower pivot point with this style of shorter crutch, the KMINA crutches reduce the amount of upper body work required to walk, enable a better posture, and reduce fatigue.

Gong Life Care Solutions is a wholly Australian owned and operated business, located in Wollongong, NSW.

References

1. Assessment of Stresses About The Cervical Spine: Caused by Posture and Position of the Head, Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, MD, Chief of Spine Surgery New York Spine Surgery & Rehabilitation Medicine. New York, USA. http://realspinesurgery.com/text-neck

2. Safework Australia https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au

3. Healthdirect https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/how-to-improve-your-posture

4. Physioadvisor.com https://www.physioadvisor.com.au/health/ergonomics/safe-lifting

5. Walk Easy https://walkeasy.com/blog/walkeasy/forearm-vs-underarm-crutches

For more information, contact us on 1300 907 280, Tues to Fri, 8.00 am – 5.00 pm AEDT or email info@gonglcs.com.au

We deliver free anywhere in Australia.

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