Correct Lifting Posture
Lifting objects from the floor,
or from a level lower than the waist, can increase the risk
of back pain. This is particularly true if the objects are
heavy. Lifting incorrectly with the knees straight (see illustration)
will cause the lifter to bend over for the object, putting
immense pressure on the spine as the object is brought up.
The head is slanted backwards and the neck is bent, compressing
the back of the neck and leaving the lifter with more room
The proper form to assume
when lifting involves bending of the knees (see illustration),
which allows the object to be lifted without flexing the spine.
The back and neck remain straight as the lifter looks straight
ahead, locking the spinal vertebrae and reducing the risks
of back strain. If looking at the object before lifting is
needed, the lifter only needs to do so before the act of lifting
itself, and repositioning the neck to its proper position
prior to the actual lift.
The entire lifting motion
can be divided into several separate stages, as follows:
Preparing to Lift
• Advancing towards
the object, feet are placed firmly on the ground, shoulder-width
apart. All bending is done at the knees and not at the spine.
• The distance between
the object and the lifter should be less than an arms’
length to prevent additional pressure on the spine during
the lift. The neck and back should be kept straight while
taking hold of the object to be lifted.
• Adequate support for
the back can be achieved by drawing the stomach muscles in
towards the spine before the actual lift. Neck muscles should
be relaxed and the back not over-arched.
• It helps to take a
deep breath before lifting, taking in air through the upper
and lower chest to add energy to the lifting process.
• Carry the object as close to the body as possible,
letting the knees take most of the weight. Keeping a low centre
of gravity for the object helps, as well.
• As the lift is carried
out, the abdominals should be tensed upwards and inwards,
while breathing is slow and measured.
• Both the neck and
back should remain straight during the whole lifting process,
without tensing or over-arching them.
• Continue to breath
and keeping the lower stomach muscles tight. Holding one’s
breath during the carrying process is not advisable.
• A change in direction
should only be done when the lifter is already upright with
the object as close to the body as possible. Bending or twisting
while moving an object can have an adverse effect on the spine.
Putting the Object
To put an object down, the
lifter follows the same principle as in lifting, only in reverse.
To prevent the risks of injury, the following steps are essential:
• Place both feet firmly
on the ground at a shoulder-width distance from each other.
Bending is done solely at the knees without flexing or bending
• Abdominal muscles
should be kept tight, while breathing continues at a slow
• The lifter should keep the object as close to the
body as possible, making sure it has a low centre of gravity.
The neck and lower back should be kept straight, relaxed and
• Prior to putting down
the object, the lifter must have already zoned in on where
to put it down.
Taking note of the following
steps will make lifting easier and less dangerous to the back:
• Avoid lifting excessively
heavy or awkward objects without asking for assistance. Even
if the objects to be lifted are light, refrain from lifting
them incorrectly, as even this can cause injury. Practice
makes perfect: correctly assuming the proper lifting posture
will eventually become a healthy back habit.
• If the objects to
be lifted can be broken down into several parts, it is safer
to lift the parts separately. For instance, several bags of
groceries can be distributed equally on both hands. Avoid
filling just one bag to its maximum when you can use two bags
filled with an equal load.
• Limit lifting and
bending frequency within a short span of time to prevent back
and stomach muscle fatigue, which can increase injury risks.
• To maintain a sturdy
and flexible back, periodically decompress the spine with
• Strengthening the
core and stabilizing muscles can lessen the incidence of injury
while keeping the back healthy. Back strengthening exercises
can be found in the Exercises section.