The object of body mechanics is to maintain balance and control at all times. In addition to preventing injuries, lifting the right way also conserves energy. This means reducing strain so you won’t tire out as quickly. We hope that these tips will help improve safety and efficiency when picking up heavy objects, whether at work or on moving day.
The Right Way to Lift
- Start by testing the load. Grip the object to estimate its weight. An object that is heavier than expected is more likely to cause stress. You should also determine whether or not the weight is equally distributed. Lifting uneven loads are especially bad for the back. When lifting an unevenly packed box, rearrange the items inside if possible.
- Face the object. Stay facing the object while picking up and carrying it. Twisting the spine under stress can cause injury.
- Keep your feet apart. Don’t do the splits, but try to position your feet so that they line up with your shoulders. This helps create a stronger foundation with your legs and avoids concentrating stress along your spine.
- Always use slow, smooth movements. Jerky movements are more likely to result in muscle strain and back injury. Likewise, try to work slowly at a steady pace that feels right for you. Rushing also increases the risk of injury.
- Bend your knees and enter a squatting position. This is part of “lifting with your legs.”
- Stand up. From the squatting position, grip the object and stand up. Make sure to keep your back straight the entire time. The stress from the load should be concentrated in your legs and arms.
- Keep the object close to your body. Once upright, bring the item you’re lifting as close to your torso as possible. Keep the object close while carrying it.
- Never lift a heavy object above shoulder level. Raising a load too high significantly increases the risk of injury to your spine and also introduces the possibility of a dangerous head injury. Keeping heavy objects between your shoulders and waist is ideal.
- Take regular breaks. When you’re lifting many items, be sure to stop and take a break for a few minutes whenever you can. Taking breaks reduces muscle strain and is especially important for preventing back strain.
- Get someone to help when possible. Proper body mechanics doesn’t eliminate stress, strain, and potential injury completely. If you need to lift an item that you think may be too much for one person, ask a friend or coworker for help. A second person is also a good idea for even lighter loads. Reducing the amount of stress always helps to prevent back strain.
Dealing With Back Pain
While it’s better to prevent back injuries before they happen through proper body mechanics, lower back pain can be treated. If you’re experiencing back pain or other spine-related problems, contact us at the Colorado Brain and Spine Institute to find out if treatment is right for you.