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Proper Lifting Techniques- Protect Your Back

EnFuse Staff

Category: Strength & Rehabilitation

Proper Lifting Techniques- Protect Your Back

It is a Sunday afternoon and the Sunday “Scaries” are beginning to set in. You are rushing around the house attempting to complete as much as possible before starting the work week. There is laundry and dishes to be done, dinner to cook, lunches to be made, you are moving a million miles a minute. You run downstairs to switch the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. All of a sudden, as you are switching the laundry, you experience a debilitating pain in your back that sends you to your knees. You think to yourself, how did this happen when all you had done was transfer laundry from the washing machine to the dryer? This was a routine task that you had been performing the same way throughout the course of your life. However, have you ever thought about the method in which you perform certain tasks? Many of us mindlessly lift or transfer something from point A to point B and do not typically think of our body positioning while performing simple lifting tasks. However, the body does not respond well to loading in certain positions at times and injury can occur as a result. 

Lifting Techniques

No matter how light or how heavy the load being lifted, there is a specific or more protective technique of properly lifting to avoid back injury. In order to avoid injury while lifting larger loads, such as a laundry basket or box, the following factors can be taken into consideration:

  • Feet shoulder width apart3
  • Knees bent- you are lifting with your legs, not your back!3
  • Back straight (neutral position) – chest and shoulders forward3
  • Tighten abdominal muscles3
  • Elbows bent- prevents weight of object from being transferred into back3
  • Stand close to the object and face it directly- avoid twisting, the body does not tolerate rotation while loading very well3
    • When rotating, pivot with feet, have hips lead and shoulders follow3
  • Lift close to the body- keep the load close, the further away the load is from your body the more stress placed on the body/the heavier the load3
  • Have a plan- know where the load is being transferred to3

The above method can be used when lifting larger or heavier objects such as laundry baskets and boxes. The Golfer’s Lift is a useful lifting technique performed when picking something small off the ground such as a golf ball, utensils, fallen pieces of food, etc.

  • Knees do not bend- one leg comes off the floor behind the other leg and provides balance1
  • The opposite hip bends1
  • Body becomes parallel to floor (except for weight bearing leg) 1
  • One arm (typically same arm as weight bearing leg) reaches to receive object from ground1
  • Back leg (leg in air) allows for spine to stay neutral and avoids strain on back1

These are just two of many different lifting techniques that can be performed to avoid injury to the back. By transferring the weight properly, the load is dispersed and the spine is experiencing less load.

Common Back Injuries Associated with Improper Lifting Techniques

Improper lifting techniques can cause injury to the vertebral discs, joints and muscles within the spine.3 An improper lift can cause the vertebra in the back to shift out of alignment which as a result can shift the disc out of alignment as well.2 When discs are out of alignment they can come in contact with the nerve roots or spinal cord causing pain. Symptoms such as numbness and tingling, bowel and bladder dysfunction, irregular gait pattern, diminished sensation and/or decreased strength can occur depending on the severity of the injury.2

Note:  If experiencing any of the above symptoms one should seek medical attention.

The small joints within the spine can become injured as a result of improper lifting techniques.3 Depending on the positioning of the spine, the joints may experience increased compression which can cause pain or irritation. Some of the joints can become more or less mobile which can cause irritability as well. The muscles surrounding the joints can become irritated because they are compensating for the lack of stability within the joint. Muscles can also be stressed or strained due to the increased stress placed on the muscle as a result of improper lifting techniques.3

Many back injuries can be avoided by remembering to use proper lifting techniques. It is important to remember to lift with your legs and avoid using your back. Keep the object you are lifting close to your body and your elbows bent to avoid increased compression throughout the spine. These are just a few of many different techniques used for lifting. Modifications to specific lifting techniques may need to be made depending on the person.

If you need any coaching or guidance on how best to improve your lifting mechanics, please contact our team to set up a consult- support@EnFuseFitness.com



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We hope that you find this article helpful!

In Health,
Team EnFuse

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    1. Improper Lifting: Potential Injuries and How to Protect Against Them. NASA. https://mescforyou.ksc.nasa.gov/RehabWorks/Article_ElbArticle. Accessed June 29, 2017.
    2. Miller PTRS. Additional Lifting Techniques to Avoid Back Injury. Spine-health. https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/sports-and-spine-injuries/additional-lifting-techniques-avoid-back-injury. Accessed June 29, 2017.
    3. Protecting Your Back: Proper Lifting Techniques. South Tampa Chiropractic Clinic. http://www.southtampachiropracticclinic.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=41&Itemid=88. Accessed June 29, 2017.




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