Scan Smart: Ergonomics and Sonography

Do you scan smart?

Do you and your employer actively apply ergonomics within the work place?

It is essential to do so in order to prevent musculoskeletal disorders or injuries. Any good program will address these issues as soon as you begin scanning in your lab, so that you can develop these proper scanning techniques right from the start.

According to An Update on Ergonomic Issues in Sonography published by the Employee Health and Safety Services (EHS), experiencing pain and discomfort has a range of functional consequences that impact on both home and work life, and approximately 70% of all sonographers report that the pain and discomfort they experience is related to painful work activities. The task that most aggravates musculoskeletal symptoms in sonographers is applying pressure with the transducer. This pressure creates discomfort mainly in the following anatomical sites: shoulder (76%), neck (74%), upper back (58%), lower back (58%), wrist (59%), and the hands/fingers (55%).

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How can ergonomics decrease the probability of discomfort and strain?
Posture is the key factor here, in particular you want to decrease the duration of awkward and static posture. So change your posture during the day, whether it is through the use of your ergonomic desk chair, or by optimizing your work site so that it properly aligned and allows you to reduce reaches to and over the patient. Be aware of your posture every time you scan to eliminate undesirable habits and make sure to decrease your hand-grip pressure when possible. Lastly, proper exercise and rest is always very important, as this increases tissue tolerance.

Utilize this Musculoskeletal Checklist* in order to assess your work posture and work practices:
1. Is the patient close enough to me? Is my arm and elbow tucked in closely to my body in a comfortable position?
2. Did I adjust my chair or examination bed according to the body habitus of my patient in relationship to my height?
3. Is my posture a comfortable and correct one so as not to cause undue stress on my body?
4. Am I working with my wrist and neck in a straight and supported position?
5. Is the monitor and keyboard positioned so that I can easily see and reach them?
6. Am I supporting my limbs properly throughout the entire examination?
7. When I stand, am I carrying my body weight equally on both feet?
8. Did I take a micro break? I.e. consciously releasing tension on the scanning hand for a few seconds?
9. Did I take a mini-break? I.e. removing the probe from the scanning hand, stretching the hand, arm and shoulders and glancing periodically away from the monitor to release eye tension?
10. Am I aware of any unusual symptoms, such as numbness, swelling or pain?


Gregory, V., (1998) “Musculoskeletal Injuries: Occupational Health and Safety Issues in Sonography”.  Sound Effects 30, September 1998.


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Stay tuned for future ergonomic postings.

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