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Mind your backs

Moving and handling specialist physiotherapists in Yorkshire are aiming to raise awareness of a tool they have developed to prevent work-related back problems in the profession.

The postural analysis tool is designed to help therapists to think about their posture and the potential risk to their spines, as a complement to existing risk assessments.

The tool’s creators, physiotherapists Ann Drinkwater and Shona Eyre and occupational therapist Jan Spencer,

do not work together, but found a common interest in the project when they met at a regional Back Exchange group several years ago.

Ms Drinkwater said she had carried out a video exercise that showed many physios were unaware of their own postures during work, particularly those in specialist areas who ‘were repeating a lot of the same compromised postures’.

In 2005, a CSP survey that found that of all work-related disorders among physiotherapists, those involving the lower back were the most prevalent.

The Yorkshire group’s tool focuses on the thoracolumbar spine and looks at four areas to identify risk: posture, effort, repetition and duration. An observer assesses how far their colleague’s posture is from the anatomical neutral position and scores each area from 0 to 3.

Ms Drinkwater said the tool should be used to ‘kick start’ discussion, and could be followed by other ergonomic tools to further identify risk. ‘It is a simple tool,’ she said. ‘Physiotherapists don’t have time to go through a complicated assessment but we did feel we needed something to look constructively at what we are doing.’ The group is hoping to increase use of the tool, which they say has applications in other clinical services. ‘We are trying to get it out into general use. Once we have more feedback we may develop a teaching pack, and one day it may sit alongside all the other ergonomic tools,’ Ms Drinkwater added.Further information

The Thoracolumbar Postural Analysis Tool is available from Shona Eyre at eyburnphysio@tiscali.co.uk

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