Career-ending musculoskeletal injuries can be prevented with simple measures.
Studies have shown that 84% of ultrasound professionals have experienced some degree of pain related to their profession. Of these, nearly 90% have experienced work-related pain for more than half of their careers.
Awkward postures, static positioning, repetitive motion of scanning and a “pinched” transducer grip are just some of the risk factors that a Sonographer encounters on a daily basis. These factors, combined with increasing workload and demanding schedules reinforce the need for ergonomically designed equipment and practices.
Treatments for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSD) range from rest to reduced workload to surgery. However, the Sonographer is usually sent back to the same job hazards that initially caused the injury. PREVENTION is the key.
There are simple steps that you can take to minimize your exposure to this career-ending injury…
Scanning Posture & Technique
Here are some simple steps to integrate into your scanning procedures:
- Typically, the more a joint deviates from neutral position, the greater the risk for injury. Keep your scanning arm as close to you as possible. Elbows should be at your side, with your thumb facing up. Forearm should be parallel to the floor.
- Position the patient as close to you as possible.
- Use a comfortable and relaxed grip on the transducer. Four to five times more muscle & tendon force is needed to “pinch” something than to "grip" it.
- When viewing the ultrasound machine from a seated position, maintain approximately a 24-inch distance from the monitor. The normal viewing angle should be no more than 15 degrees below the horizon (seated); viewing angles from left to right should be 30 degrees.
Exercises & Stretches
- During the procedure, it’s recommended to stop about every eight minutes to take mini breaks. Relax your muscles with activities like opening and closing your fist, rolling your shoulders and turning your head from side to side. Remember, your eyes are muscles too! Focus your eyes on a distant object to take a break from screen viewing.
- Relax muscles periodically throughout the day – stretch hand, shoulder and back muscles frequently.
- Take a few minutes to warm up before lengthy, or complex, scans.
- Consider purchasing exercise posters to hang up in common rooms of your department to encourage frequent exercise breaks and stretching among your colleagues.
Incorporating ergonomics into your workstation doesn’t have to break the bank! These are just some of the cost-effective ergonomic solutions available through Cone Instruments:
- Many Sonographers drape the transducer cord around their neck, or trap the cord between their hip and the exam table. Both techniques cause muscle strain and awkward positioning during scanning. Use a cable brace to reduce the torque applied to your scanning hand, and scan in comfort.
- Wrist support braces help alleviate the stress of extreme wrist flexion during scanning.
- Adaptive Positioning Support Cushions support your scanning arm and reduce the physical effort it takes to scan. Muscle activity can be reduced by up to 78% when the elbow is supported during the scan.
- Exercise accessories such as resistance putty and exercise tubing are simple ways to increase your body’s flexibility and strength.
Administrative & Work Practice Changes
- Reduce the risk of injuries by frequently changing workflow, scheduling and task rotation among the staff. Scan different types of procedures whenever possible.
- Ensure that Sonographers participate in education or training to reduce the risk of injuries, such as workshops, conferences, lectures by professional organizations or manufacturers.
- Provide adjustable lighting in procedure rooms to eliminate monitor glare. This also increases the monitor contrast so images can be seen comfortably.
Tables with Ergonomic Features
Despite an initial investment, imaging and exam tables with ergonomic features will save your department thousands of dollars due to reduced production, sick leave absences and costs associated with hiring temporary staff or full time-replacements.
Here are some ergonomic features to consider when researching your next table purchase:
- Height adjustable from 22-44 inches
- Retractable stirrups and dropping foot board (for endovaginal exams)
- Retractable side rails that fold underneath the table (rather than along the side) – this decreases distance between Sonographer and patient
- Electric height control (no pumping or braking for trendelenburg or height adjustments)
- Easy-to-move casters suitable to the flooring
- Adequate braking system
Cone Instruments has a wide variety of imaging tables from industry leading manufacturers. We also have a wide array of stools, chairs and carts to outfit your exam room.
Remember, injuries should not be part of your job description! Our account managers and customer care associates are availabe to help you find the right solution for your clinical needs, while staying on budget. Contact us today by email or at 1-800-321-6964.
Scanning Ergonomics and Your Safety, Biodex, December 2003
Murphey SL, Coffin CT, The Value of Ergonomically Designed Ultrasound Systems. Biosound Esaote