Proper Lifting Techniques
Our backs are at times very strong, but they can be quite delicate as well. When it comes to back injuries, it's not the task you are performing at the time of an injury that is usually the issue. Back injuries are cumulative, meaning it's all the little things you've been doing incorrectly for years that have finally caught up with you.
Back pain is going to affect almost everyone at some point, and lifting is a significant cause of back injury and pain. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that more than one million workers suffer back injuries every year, and lifting is the primary cause of work injuries. The good news is that most lifting injuries can be prevented if people use proper lifting techniques.
Most people know that it's important to bend your knees when you lift, but bent knees alone won't necessarily protect your back. Bent knees in combination with the following tips will go a long way toward helping you finish lifting projects safely.
Tips and techniques for lifting properly
- Think before you lift. Test the object before you lift. Pushing it or picking up a corner will tell you how heavy it is, and if the load feels unbalanced, repack it so it won't move around. Plan your route, and position yourself to bend with your knees and hips—not your back. Lift using a smooth movement with your arms controlling the object and lifting with the legs, not your back.
- Stand with your shoulders squarely over your feet. This posture will help you to engage your core as you lift, and remind you not to twist as you carry.
- Keep your chest forward. When you push your chest forward, you are keeping your back straight and positioning your body to protect your lower back by helping to maintain the natural curvature of the spine. Most people know that it's important to bend their knees when lifting, but they may not know that bent knees with a curved back still leaves them vulnerable to injury.
- Don't twist. Twisting when you lift—especially when the object is heavy—can make you dangerously prone to a back injury. If you remember to keep your shoulders in line with your hips, it's easier to avoid twisting. If you are carrying an object and need to change direction, lead with your hips, not your shoulders.
- Hold objects close to your body. The farther away from the body you hold an object, the more force you need to hold it up. Holding objects close to your center of gravity reduces your injury risk.
- Know your limits. Warm up before lifting heavy objects. If there are many items on your list, pace yourself and take small breaks between lifting tasks. If you are straining to try to lift something, then it's too heavy for you and you should ask for help.
- Bend at your knees, not your waist. Lifting with your legs works best when you can straddle the object you are moving. Bend your knees to grab the object and then use your leg muscles to lift, keeping your back straight. It's easier to keep your back straight if you look up slightly while lifting.
If you follow these tips and use a little forethought you can complete your lifting tasks without putting your back at risk.