One of the easiest ways to injure your back is through careless lifting. Proper bending and lifting, and wearing a back brace can help you to both prevent back injury and lesson painful flare-ups. The mechanics of bending and lifting are hard on the back, especially when lifting heavy objects. Various structures in our backs can be injured during the lifting phase. Muscles can go into spasm, ligaments can be strained, discs (the spacers that cushion the back) can be injured, and more.
You might get away with poor lifting technique for a while, especially if you are young and haven’t had a previous low back injury. However, improper repetitive use of the back fatigues these important structures. Sooner or later, your back won’t be able to withstand the pressures and injury will occur
The goal of proper lifting is to keep the shoulders over the hips, keep the low back straight, and thus keep the lever systems short. This is accomplished by bending the knees and lifting with the legs.
Follow these 10 tips to avoid injury:
1. Plan ahead before lifting.
Knowing what you’re doing and where you’re going will prevent you from making awkward movements while holding something heavy. Clear a path, and if lifting something with another person, make sure both of you agree on the plan.
2. Lift close to your body.
You will be a stronger, and more stable lifter if the object is held close to your body rather than at the end of your reach. Make sure you have a firm hold on the object you are lifting, and keep it balanced close to your body.
3. Feet shoulder width apart.
A solid base of support is important while lifting. Holding your feet too close together will be unstable, too far apart will hinder movement. Keep the feet about shoulder width apart and take short steps.
4. Bend your knees and keep your back straight.
Practice the lifting motion before you lift the object, and think about your motion before you lift. Focus on keeping you spine straight–raise and lower to the ground by bending your knees.
5. Don’t twist or bend.
Face in the direction you are walking. If you need to turn, stop, turn in small steps, and then continue walking.
6. Keep your eyes up.
Looking slightly upwards will help you maintain a better position of the spine.
7. Tighten your stomach muscles.
Tightening your abdominal muscles will hold your back in a good lifting position and will help prevent excessive force on the spine.
8. Lift with your legs.
Your legs are many times stronger than your back muscles–let your strength work in your favor. Again, lower to the ground by bending your knees, not your back. Keeping your eyes focused upwards helps to keep your back straight.
Never bend your back to pick something up - It’s just not worth the damage that improper lifting technique can cause.
9. If you’re straining, get help.
If an object is too heavy, or awkward in shape, make sure you have someone around who can help you lift.
10. Wear a belt or back support.
If you are lifting in your job or often at home a back belt can help you maintain a better lifting posture.