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Log Roll Technique

What It Is, Uses, and More

Author:Georgina Tiarks

Editors:Alyssa Haag,Ian Mannarino, MD, MBA,Kelsey LaFayette, DNP, ARNP, FNP-C

Copyeditor:Jessica Reynolds, MS


What is the log roll technique?

The log roll technique is a method used by healthcare professionals, specifically in trauma settings, to move patients while maintaining spinal alignment and preventing further injury in those suspected of having or confirmed as having a spinal injury. The log roll technique can also be used in other settings to help move an unconscious patient to assess or clean their backside. 

There are three different variations of the log roll technique that may be employed depending on the initial position that the patient is found in. If the patient is supine (i.e., lying flat on their back), the traditional method may be used, which involves at least four individuals. One individual is typically leading the group at the head of the patient, while two other individuals are positioned on one side of the patient’s body. The final individual is situated on the opposite side with a spinal board. As the team leader stabilizes the neck to maintain neutral alignment, the two individuals may grasp the upper body, shoulders, and hips and rotate the patient towards them at an angle of 30 to 90 degrees. The fourth individual then places the spinal board beneath the patient’s back while assessing the back for any injuries. The patient may then be slowly lowered back down on the spinal board to lie flat.

If the patient is found in a prone position (i.e., lying on their stomach), the log roll push or log roll pull technique may be used. With the log roll push, five individuals are required. The team leader coordinates movements at the head and stabilizes the cervical spine while three individuals are positioned on the side that the patient’s head is facing. The fifth individual holds the spinal board at an angle of 45 degrees on the opposite side. The three people roll and push the patient onto the board so that their back now lies on the board at a 45-degree angle and they are slowly lowered down to the ground.

With the log roll pull, the team leader is again positioned at the head of the patient for coordination and maintaining neutral spinal alignment. Three of the individuals are positioned on the side opposite of where the patient's head is facing and will pull the patient towards them, rolling the patient so they lay on their back. During this movement, the fifth individual slides the spinal board between the individuals’ arms so that the board stabilizes the patient’s back.

Person in position to be log rolled by healthcare team.

When is the log roll technique used?

The log roll technique may be employed in various healthcare scenarios where the patient may not be able to move or it is not safe for them to do so. Often, this is used in trauma settings where there is concern for spinal injury. Although recent research is beginning to recommend against using this technique, it is traditionally used for spinal immobilization. 

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Resources for research and reference

Conrad BP, Rossi GD, Horodyski MB, Prasarn ML, Alemi Y, Rechtine GR. Eliminating log rolling as a spine trauma order. Surg Neurol Int. 2012;3(Suppl 3):S188-S197. doi:10.4103/2152-7806.98584

Pullen RL Jr. Logrolling a patient. Nursing. 2004;34(2):22. doi:10.1097/00152193-200402000-00019

Shodari A, Almaghrabi M, Basindwah S, Alhazmi B, Fallatah S. Techniques and tools used in trauma patients transfer: a review. Saudi Journal of Emergency Medicine. 2021;2(1):85-91. doi:https://doi.org/10.24911/sjemed/72-1598298728