The position of the spine in the recovery position-an experimental comparison between the lateral recovery position and the modified HAINES position
W.E.D. Blake a * , B.C. Stillman b , N. Eizenberg a , C. Briggs a and J.M. McMeeken b
Received: 10/15/2001. Revised: 10/16/2001. Accepted: 2/25/2002.


The lateral recovery position is widely used for the positioning of unconscious patients. Ideally, in the setting of trauma it is avoided because of concerns about spinal cord injury. However, unconscious individuals with unsuspected trauma or trauma victims attended by partially trained first-aiders may be placed in the recovery position, potentially endangering the cord. Excessive movement of the spine in the recovery position may increase the risk of spinal cord injury in these situations. A new recovery position, termed the modified HAINES position, is described and the position of the spine in this position is compared with the lateral recovery position. Hypothesis: That the modified HAINES position results in less distortion of the position of the spine than the lateral recovery position. Methods: Thirty-eight healthy volunteers were imaged in the two different positions. Measurements of rotation, flexion and lateral flexion of the cervical and thoraco-lumbar spine were made. Two tailed paired t-tests were employed to compare measurements of the two positions and a McNemar test was used to compare the subjects' subjective experiences. Results: The modified HAINES position resulted in 13.0° (99% CI: 7.5-18.5) less lateral flexion and 12.6° (99% CI: 9.4-15.9) less extension of the cervical spine while the position of the thoraco-lumbar spine was similar in both positions. Nineteen of 28 subjects found the modified HAINES position more comfortable (not significant). Conclusion: The modified HAINES position results in a more neutral position of the spine making it preferable to the lateral recovery position in the management of patients when trauma may have occurred. Further research is required to ensure that the recovery positions in use today are the best possible.


a Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3051, Australia. b School of Physiotherapy, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3051, Australia.


[This message was edited by Wise Young on Aug 25, 2002 at 05:52 AM.]