Following correct lifting techniques will help prevent injury so you can function at your best.
When lifting, we’ve all heard the words: “Bend with your knees!”
This is correct, but it’s not the only way to help prevent injury to your back and spine when lifting.
Lifting injuries are a common cause of back pain. However, you can protect yourself against damage with good lifting habits.
When you lift, your spine is put under stress. Twisting or jerking while lifting and carrying can injure the small joints of the spine. The discs that separate the vertebrae (spinal bones) and the ligaments, which hold the vertebrae together, are also at risk. The discs are composed of a jelly-like core, surrounded by a strong fibrous ring. With repeated and unsafe lifting, the fibrous ring or its supporting ligaments may tear or rupture.
This is commonly known as a disc bulge or herniation. Lifting while bent forward will increase the stress on your spine. Contributing to this stress are factors like the weight of the load, how far it is held from your body, how often and how fast you lift, and how long you hold the load.
To protect your spine from injury, always attempt to take the following steps:
- Get a firm footing with your feet apart for a stable base
- Bend your hips and knees instead of bending at the waist. This allows the leg muscles to take the load and not the spine
- Tighten your abdominal muscles. Abdominal muscles support the spine when lifting
- Ensure you have a strong grip and the load is as close to you as possible
- The closer it is to your spine the less force it exerts on your back
- Brace yourself for the lift but continue to breathe normally through the lift
- Lift steadily and do not jerk the load. Look straight ahead, not down
- Keep your back straight and avoid twisting or bending to the side
- To lower the object, place your feet as you did to lift, tighten stomach muscles and bend your hips and knees
- The most dangerous position for your lower back is the combination of forward bending and twisting – this should be avoided at all costs. Reaching for things above shoulder level is another strenuous activity for your back
Recent studies suggest that the back is especially vulnerable to injury immediately following a period of prolonged forward bending or inactivity like sitting for several minutes or sleeping. In fact, the most significant injury predictor is not the task, but in the activities you have performed over the days and minutes prior! Following times of inactivity, a warm-up should be performed before attempting to lift anything, and even then remember to pay extra-special attention to using correct lifting technique.
Furthermore, you should never lift anything shortly after rising from bed. If you have gotten an injury from lifting, or you do a lot of lifting in your day, this can put stress on your back and may cause a misalignment in your spine. This misalignment is called subluxation and prevents you from functioning at your best.
The best thing to do is have a thorough spinal check-up by a corrective chiropractor.