Learn to Lift Correctly to Help Prevent Back Injury
Most people lift things of varying size and weight throughout the day without concern for back injury. It is usually after a back attack or spine injury that a patient becomes aware of the importance of proper posture and body mechanics when lifting.
At the San Diego Center for Spinal Disorders (SDCSD), we'd like to help you prevent back injury from occurring when lifting. Whether you've always had a healthy back, or you've had spine injuries in the past, the four easy lessons below will help you prevent lifting injuries.
Lesson 1: Good Posture and Body Mechanics
Posture and body mechanics involves the way your body moves through space. Good posture means the natural curves of the spine are not stressed or strained, but in a neutral position ready to absorb and distribute loads (e.g. weight) encountered during daily activities. Proper body mechanics incorporates good posture while the body is at rest or in motion. When good posture and body mechanics are working in harmony, spine injury may be prevented.
Lesson 2: Don't Lift Yet - Evaluate the Situation
Before you begin to lift something, assess the item's size and weight. Test the weight by pushing it with your foot or by lifting a corner. If the item doesn't easily move, get help. The job may require two people, splitting up the load, a hand-truck, dolly or lifting equipment.
Plan a safe route to the final destination. Map out a mental picture to the destination and plan for places to stop and rest. Before beginning to lift and move the item, clear away floor clutter (e.g. throw rugs, electrical cords), open closed doors, and be aware of stairs.
Lesson 3: Safe Lifting Tips
The following tips apply in most lifting situations.
- Position your body directly in front of and close to the item.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart to give the body a solid foundation.
- Tighten your stomach muscles to help support the back.
- Bend both at the hips and knees (power position) and squat close to the
- Take hold of the item and bring it close to your body.
- The way the item is held depends on its size and shape.
For example: A small box can be held close to the body by gripping the box at the bottom with the elbows bent. Bending the arms will help to distribute the weight and lessen stress to the neck and shoulders. Work gloves may help to improve grip and protect the hands.
- Before lifting, remember:
- Keep your stomach muscles tight
- Look straight ahead
- Do not twist or turn your body while lifting
- Lift using the leg muscles, keeping the spine straight or tall
- Take your time, smoothly lift the item;
avoid jerking movements
- Do not lift (or carry) items above the waist.
- When carrying the item, keep your knees slightly bent, take small steps,
and use your feet to change direction (e.g. pivot).
- To set the item down:
- Keep the load close to the body
- Look straight ahead
- Do not twist the body
- Bend both at the hips and knees (squat down), keeping the spine straight or tall
- Release the item
- Stand up straight using the leg muscles
Lesson 4: Don't Stoop
Consider the guidelines in Lesson 3 even if picking a piece of paper up off the floor. One of the worst body movements is stooping or bending over at the waist to lift anything. Stooping over places harmful stress on the lower back and can cause back injury.
Prevention at Hand
The next time you are faced with a simple lifting task or challenge, remember to be aware of how your body moves through space. Make sure you include proper posture and good body mechanics in your lifting plan to help prevent back injury.