Introduction A higher frequency of back complaints in the lower back area can be observed among nursing staff than among workers in other professions. The use of adjustable beds in nursing practice has been suggested as a means of influencing working postures and reducing muscular demand and load on nursing personnel. The purpose of this study is to objectively assess the impact of different bed positions on muscle activity during nursing tasks.
Methods Seven nurses in a geriatric nursing home performed a standardised morning care routine for an immobile patient. Muscular activity of left and right erector spinae muscle was measured using surface electromyography. Each participant conducted four measurements with the bed at two different heights (recommended height of the bed according to the anthropometric characteristics of the employee and recommended height lowered by 10 cm), once with raised and once with lowered side rails. Measurements were recorded for four consecutive days, from 6.00–8.00 am, each nurse taking care of the same immobile patient. Statistical analysis was performed on the basis of non-parametric Wilcoxon matched pairs test. The value p<0.05 was considered as statistically significant.
Results Analysis of the data demonstrated that refraining the basic ergonomic principles (bed height lowered by 10 cm) significantly increases the activity of erector spinae muscles (p=0.016), while utilising side rail of the bed does not represent a lower muscle activity (p=0.125–0.97).
Discussion A small difference in bed height resulted in a significant change of back muscles activity. Therefore, height adjustable beds and ergonomic training for employees should be an essential part of back pain prevention in nursing personnel. Working in pairs may represent an unexpected ergonomic puzzle if two health care workers have different bed height demands according to nursing care recommendations and standards
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