It is widely known that sonographers have a high risk of injury, recent figures suggest that 80-90% of sonographers will experience work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSD’s) and, of those, approximately 20% will have career ending symptoms. But considering the length of time and effort (and passion) required to train and qualify as a sonographer, it is worth considering the devastating consequences of having to throw it all away in face of injury or having to suffers years of pain while doing the job you love. With that in mind, we’ve put together some helpful ideas of how best to try to reduce the risk of injury and having to cut short the career you’ve worked long and hard to achieve.
Ergonomics, ergonomics, ergonomics
We can’t stress this enough. Optimum ergonomics are crucial and should ideally employed ALL of the time. Ultrasound manufacturers are working hard to improve machine ergonomics, but it is important to bear in mind the important principles of sonographer ergonomics. So learn the key principles and keep them at the forefront of your mind. They should be as important to you as when your next break is or where the gain button is. You won’t care about improvements in compound imaging or your when you next break is when you are re-training to become a medical writer or school teacher due to career ending injury – and neither will your employer. So keep good ergonomics at the forefront of your mind from day one. And if you haven’t given it much thought up to now, start ASAP. It is your employer’s responsibility to provide a safe work environment and/or appropriate training – so if you aren’t happy with your current situation then speak to your manager. If that fails seek independent advice. You can find helpful ergonomics tips on our ergonomics tips for sonographers page.
Strengthen your body
Many different activities can help to strengthen your body which will help to reduce the risk of injury. Start of small and build up slowly. Always seek advice from a qualified health professional but starting a new exercise regime. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and keeping active will aid in this process. Low impact activities such as swimming, walking, yoga, pilates can be particularly helpful to keep the muscle groups in use as well as strong, flexible and healthy.
Try building daily stretching into your normal routine. Either in the morning or evening or, if you have time, for a few minutes in your lunch break. A good tip is if you have a patient cancel at the last minute, use that time to do a few basic stretches to loosen up any muscles that have become fatigued during the day.
Reduce your stress levels
Stress doesn’t just affect the mind. As well as increasing your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, too much stress can cause the muscles in the body to tense up in order to protect themselves. If you’re constantly in a state of stress your muscles may not get the chance to relax. This will not only serve to exacerbate any underlying work-related injuries you have but has also been shown to cause back, neck and shoulder pain as well as body aches.
Don’t take shortcuts
Injuries happen when employees take shortcuts to get a job done that little bit faster. But doing this day in and day out will put your body at risk and cause unnecessary damage to your body. That unnecessary over stretch, bend down, stoop or inappropriate bed or scan monitor height might not seem like a big deal at the time, but it all mounts up and before you know it you will be experiencing pain and discomfort that could have been avoided and become something you deeply regret down the line. There’s a tendency among sonographers to think ‘I will be OK, it won’t affect me’. But remember the statistics, up to 90% will be affected. That’s a very high percentage and one of the worst industries for it. So take small consistent, daily steps to ensure you have a long and successful sonography career. View our ergonomics section to find out more detailed tips to keep you safe.