How to Lift Safely and Protect Your Back


journal.pbio.0040202.g002Have you ever picked something off the ground and then experienced pain in your lower back for several days? If you tend to spend your free time in a gym and lift weights you are probably familiar with the term „neutral spine position“ and how important is to keep your spine in that position.
But I am quite surprised how many people don’t have a clue how to lift objects off the ground safety. Just pay attention next time someone near you try to pick something from the floor, even a small object like a tennis ball. Even those people in the gym will make a mistake when lifting some small weight.
It is well known that one of the most common causes of lower back pain and sciatica is poor lifting technique. If you learn how to lift the objects properly, you can save yourself from injuries. There are many every-day life situations where this knowledge can be useful, like lifting your child or dog or picking a laundry basket off the ground.

Apply a good body mechanics

When we stand upright, the direction of the force of gravity through the body is downward (effects of gravity are transmitted down the spine). But why does it matter? Because gravity constantly affects the body in both movement and standing position. This line of gravity is important to understand and visualize as we want to keep our body balanced. When we move, the gravity force on our body changes with each movement and it changes the way joints react and muscles perform.
So it is good to remember, even if you want to pick up a Lego brick off the floor, the force of gravity is still affecting your body.

What happens in our body when we lift an object off the ground improperly?

Muscle Injury
If we lift something improperly or too heavy for us, a great deal of stress is put on the lower back muscles. A very common form of back injury is a formation of tiny tears in a muscle, known as a muscle strain. Muscle strain of the lower back can be quite painful. Sometimes people find very hard just to get up from a chair. The good thing is a back strain will typically heal with time (although it might take quite a lot of time).

Disc Injury
Between each vertebra sit a disk with a gel-like fluid inside. Our spine’s vertebrae are cushioned by them. Sometimes back pain can be related to a disc that bulges or ruptures. This disc injury may also cause a pressure on the sciatic nerve, which causes pain that runs down from the buttocks down the leg. This is called sciatica.

Joint Injury
There are many joints in the spine. The spinal joints are called facet joints. These joints link the vertebrae together. The role of these joints is to control excessive movement and provide stability for the spine. However, improper lifting techniques can cause injury to these joints and they can stiffen.

How to Lift Heavy Objects Correctly?

If you’d search the Internet on this topic, you may find quite a lot of techniques. This is because knowing how to lift an object from the ground in a right manner can save you from injuries at work. Even if you work in the office, you can find yourself in a situation where you must lift something heavy, like a package of printer paper.

Use your legs and hips not your back

You have probably heard before you shouldn’t bend your back when lifting. Instead, flex your hips and knees – in other words, squat.

1. Before you lift anything, you should have an idea of how heavy the load is.
2. Keep the load close to your body: closest you can get. By keeping the load close to your body, you reduce the amount of pressure on the spine.
3. Maintain a stable posture. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart. Tighten your abdominal muscles to give your back more support.
4. Keep your back straight throughout lifting, bend your knees and squat down to the floor.
5. Get a good grasp of load you want to lift.
6. Use your leg muscles to lift the object, your back should remain straight. Remember, leg muscles are much stronger than back or arm muscles.
7. Avoid any twisting while holding the object. This can hurt your back.
8. Again, use your leg muscles to put the object down. Do not bend your back! Hold the object close to your body.



The Golfer’s lift
This lift is usually used to pick up small and light objects from the floor.
1. Keep your back straight and raise one leg straight out behind you as you lean down to pick up the object. With the opposite hand, you may hold on to something (like table or chair) to give yourself greater support through the lift.
2. Grasp the object firmly
3. With your leg raised, look forward, slowly low your leg (push down on the surface if you holding it). Keep your back straight throughout the entire movement.


Half Kneeling

This lifting technique useful for picking a smaller object off the floor. But if you have problems with your knees, it might not be the best lifting technique for you.

1. Kneel on one knee behind the object you want to lift from the ground
2. Another leg is positioned on the other side of the object with foot on the ground
3. Reach for the object with both arms
4. As you grasp the object firmly, keep it close to your body. The back will remain straight.
5. Rise to stand, with the object close to your body and with the back straight

Half kneeling

“Repetition is the mother of all learning “

Maybe these movements don’t come naturally to you, but if you repeat them enough time they can become your routine. Think of this as a long-term investment in your spine and your health.

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