Lifting and Back Injuries

Lifting and back injuries

Movement is wonderful medicine for our bodies and this includes everyday activities like lifting and moving objects. Understanding how to lift properly can make it more enjoyable and can help you feel the great work your muscles are doing! You may have heard the term ‘lift with your legs, not with your back.’ While our backs are really strong, it is important to lift with our legs (and our whole body) so the work isn’t focused on just one area (which is what can happen if are sloppy with our lifting technique). There are different techniques for lifting and we’ve outlined 3 below. If these aren’t right for you, speak with your healthcare provider – or next time you see your provider demonstrate your technique so they can give you feedback.

Tips on proper lifting technique

Option 1 – Squat!
1.Keep a wide stance, feet are parallel and should be approximately shoulder width apart. One foot can be slightly ahead of the other for balance
2.Stand close to the object you will be picking up
3.Begin to lower your body towards the object by bending at the hips and knees while keeping your chest forward, this will ensure your back will be kept straight. In other words, stick your behind out and squat down
4.Make sure to lead with the hips and not the shoulders, your shoulders should be in line with your hips while you approach the object
5.Get a firm grasp of the object before you begin to stand up
6.Once you have lifted the object, keep it close to your body. The further the object is from your body the more force will be required to hold it, and this extra force will run through the lower back

Option 2 – Lunge!
1.If you are lifting a very light object, or you one leg is weaker then the other, you can use the lunge positon to lift the object.
2.Place one foot in front of the other
3.Lunge downwards. Your chest will come forwards in order to reach the object you’re picking up.
4.Focus on stabilizing yourself in your legs while keeping your back relatively straight.
5.Press through your heels to come back up to a standing position.

Option 3 – Golfer’s Lift!
1.This is really helpful if you’re lifting out of a bin or picking up small objects (like a golf ball!)
2.Stand close to the object with one foot in front of the other.
3.Shift your weight onto the front leg and lean forwards. Your knee stays ‘soft’ (straight but not locked)
4.Your other leg will lift behind you and be parallel to the floor.
5.Pick up the object with one hand (ideally with the opposite hand to your support leg – the leg that you’re standing on)

Safety and precautions
1.Do not twist or turn while lifting a heavy object, this can cause excess strain on your back. To prevent this from happening, face the object you’re picking up. If you need to carry it or move it somewhere, fully standup and then move your feet so your whole body turns, not just your back.
2.Assess the situation before you lift an object and know your limits, do not lift objects that are too heavy
3.Keep your back relatively straight, even once the lift is complete
4.Remember to breathe! We often hold our breath when doing something challenging, but taking deep breaths helps engage our core muscles to stabilize us. One rule to think about is ‘Blow before you go’ – Breathe out as you move. For example, set yourself up in front of the object you want to pick up. Breathe in. Breathe out and move to pick up the object.

Take home message
Proper lifting helps reduce excessive strain on our bodies, it’s also a great leg work out! Set yourself up properly in front of the object you want to lift – face the object and be close to the object. Breathe in before you start to move and breathe out through the movement and as you lift. Move your whole body instead of twisting your back if you need to move the object somewhere else.