Musculoskeletal injuries are par for the course for EMS providers in Illinois. Even though safety authorities say that predictable injuries are preventable, the nature of your job on an ambulance often denies you the chance to think actions through before doing them. The result might be a back injury, and it could be challenging to return to work after such an injury because there will always be a fear of it recurring.
You must accept that recovery of musculoskeletal injuries can take approximately six weeks, and upon return, you must ease yourself into the job again. The correct positioning of your body can prevent a re-injury. Proper posture and technique are crucial, and so is using available equipment such as lifting tools.
Test your strength
Before you can even consider lifting patients, you must be able to lunge or squat, or your back and knees will not last. If your gluteus maximus muscles in your buttocks are strong enough, they will ease the load on your back. Furthermore, the thoracic region, which is the spinal region to which the ribs are attached, must be mobile enough to allow extension and strong enough to give you enough power to lift patients. If you return to work before regaining these abilities, you may set yourself up for another injury.
Steps to avoid re-injury
You must recognize that you cannot even attempt to move patients if you are unable to move yourself without discomfort. The following steps might ensure stability and mobility in your thoracic spine, hips and ankles:
- Check your trunk angle: Do not drop your head or sternum while you lift or transfer a patient because the load on your back will increase the further you lean forward. A lifting device can help to reduce strain when transferring patients from bed to bed, a dialysis chair and even bathtub and toilet transfers.
- Limit the height of the lift: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that you should never attempt lifts from floor level. The agency says reducing the height by using a powered stretcher or another lifting device will reduce the load.
- Avoid friction: When you do lateral transfers without a transfer device, the awkward trunk angle and friction are perfect ingredients for a musculoskeletal injury. The handles of a transfer device will also allow a stronger grip.
- Reset and restore your body: Your job in EMS is entirely physical, and if you want to avoid injuries, you must reset and restore your body to counter the impact. Frequent exercising will improve your power, strength, fitness and resilience.
Dealing with an injury
Along with having to cope with a debilitating musculoskeletal injury, you might experience anxiety about the financial consequences of your injury. Mounting medical bills and lost wages are enough to ruin anyone’s financial stability. However, the Illinois workers’ compensation insurance program should have your back. Resources are available to assist with the legalities of filing benefits claims to ease the economic burden.