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Lifting and Back Pain

Lifting and Back Pain


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 for injury.

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.
The Lift
• 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.

The Carry

• 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 Down

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 the back.

• Abdominal muscles should be kept tight, while breathing continues at a slow measured pace.
• 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 not over-arched.

• Prior to putting down the object, the lifter must have already zoned in on where to put it down.

Other Considerations:

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 a backrack.

• 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.


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