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Muscle activity during patient transfers: a preliminary study on the influence of lift assists and experience

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The purpose of this study was to examine muscle activity patterns during patient handling during manual transfers, and transfers using floor and ceiling lifts. EMG patterns during transfers from bed to wheelchair and wheelchair to bed as well as patient repositioning in novices and experienced participants were examined. Surface EMG was recorded from the upper and lower erector spinae, latissimus dorsi and trapezius muscles bilaterally. Overall, normalized mean and peak muscle activity were lowest using the ceiling lift, increasing with the floor lift, which were lower than manual transfers (novices: all p < 0.01). Experienced patient handlers demonstrated approximately two times greater trapezius and latissimus dorsi activity than novices, combined with lower mean erector spinae activity (p < 0.05, for most tasks). Integrated EMG for all muscles was directly proportional to the transfer time and was lowest during the manual transfer followed by the ceiling lift, with the floor lift being highest. The difference between the muscle activity patterns between the experienced and novice patient handlers may suggest a learned behaviour to protect the spine by distributing load to the shoulder. Further examination of the muscle activation patterns differences between experience levels could improve training techniques to develop better patient handling strategies.
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Keywords: EMG; Lifting; Patient transfer

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 26, 2004

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