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There are many simple things that can be done to prevent back injuries when lifting. Keep your back straight and do not let it round. Get close to the object you will be lifting, and set your feet shoulder width apart. Squat down by bending your knees to pick up the object, and hold the object close to the body at all times.
Rule of thumb for less back pain: Don't try to channel Hulk Hogan when hoisting that 50-lb. bag of dog food off the shelf. Use common sense -- and your legs, instead. Plus, err on the side of caution when determining how much weight you can safely and comfortably lift. If faced with lifting a particularly heavy load, break it up into lighter loads, use a dolly, or ask for help. Always keep your spine straight and your abs engaged, and let your legs do the lifting whenever moving objects from one place to another.
The most common cause of lower back pain is using your back muscles in movements or activities you're not used to, such as lifting furniture or doing heavy yard work. It’s important to know the facts about lifting to avoid further back injury or pain problems. Did you know that very high forces are placed on the lower back when we lift an object? For example, lifting an object weighing 86 pounds (39 kilograms) can cause a force of over 700 pounds on the lower back discs. And this is with proper lifting techniques. Heavier weights cause even higher loads on the lower back. When these facts are known, it is surprising that injuries and back pain are not even more common than they are. Since we can't avoid many of these daily tasks, we must become smart in the way we use our backs.
When lifting, always bend at the knees, not at the waist. Never lift an object by keeping your legs stiff, while bending over it.
Avoid twisting your body. Instead, point your toes in the direction you want to move and pivot in that direction.
Position yourself close to the object you want to lift. Separate your feet (shoulder-width apart) to give yourself a solid base of support. Bend at the knees. Tighten your stomach muscles. Lift with your leg muscles as you stand up.
Push rather than pull when you must move a heavy object such as furniture or a large box.
Follow these dos and don'ts when lifting objects to help prevent low back pain.
- Do lift and carry objects close to your body.
- Do bend your knees as you lift -- make your legs do the hard work, not your back.
- Do turn with your feet as you lift.
- Do know your own strength. Lift only as much as you can handle comfortably.
- Don't lift objects away from your body, with arms outstretched.
- Don't lift with your legs straight.
- Don't lift and twist in one motion.
- Don't lift objects that are too heavy for you.
To prevent injury when lifting objects, at all times avoid twisting. Learn more in this video with Dr. Rick McMichael of the American Chiropractic Association:
Keep your back straight, engage your core muscles and bend at the knees when lifting an object. Let your legs do the work while keeping the object close to your body.
Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.