Ergonomics in Ultrasound - Why do I care about ergonomics in my daily life? Part 1

There you are – you finished your education and finally can do what you love: You can use diagnostic ultrasound to help your patients!

Maybe you are a medical doctor specializing in ultrasound (which I believe is a captivating technique!) doing plenty of exams yourself every day. Or you are a sonographer who is passionate about scanning patients.

In my opinion, there is no better imaging technique than ultrasound. I apply ultrasound on nearly every region of the body, including the heart, lungs, abdomen, carotids, and thyroid. It is fascinating to obtain instant information. In addition, being in direct contact with patients provides additional information such as; Is the patient dyspneic or sweating? What about body temperature, the smell? Are they in pain? You get incredible information even before imaging by talking and observing the patient. 

Even though you want to get the most out of your exam, a word of caution: Don't forget about yourself! 

Unfortunately, we often put the patients' needs way before our own. 

My personal story

One day, just a few weeks back, something unexpected happened to me. While putting my socks on, I suddenly felt a terrible pain in my lower back. I could hardly move! A diagnostic workup & treatment (pain medication) followed. I went to the physiotherapist of my trust, and he located the problem in the sacroiliac joint. Fortunately, it was not a severe issue, but excessive scanning (often five days a week, eight hours straight in a suboptimal position) already took its toll.

Of course, I continued working, and fortunately, thanks to physiotherapy, the pain got less and eventually vanished. However, I realized that I had to change my approach. I started talking to my colleagues, and guess what? All of them suffered from some form of pain – in the joints, back, shoulders, elbows, wrist, or neck. Recent surveys show that 80-90% of sonographers suffer from musculoskeletal pain, and almost 90% know they have awkward positions during scanning! So at least I am not alone!

Where is the pain located?

You might think – my back always hurts, but is it the same in everyone. The answer is yes – there are specific pain points, and as we all make similar mistakes, we all are in the same boat regarding significant pain points!

The neck has a high prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders in sonographers, with almost 94% of sonographers feel pain in 12 months!

The neck is closely followed by the shoulders (92%) and the lower back (83%). We should not forget to mention the wrist and hand (80%) and the upper back (73%). Compared to the numbers before the elbow, a 12-month prevalence of 42% seems little.

We can learn from these statistics that we have to care for ourselves. After all, we want to do what we love without pain for many more years.

Do you suffer from musculoskeletal problems as a result of scanning? What are your thoughts? Please comment below!

Stay tuned: In part 2, we will discuss specific problems we can face when scanning.