Think Before you Lift

No matter what your occupation is, it is very likely that you pick things up (and put them down) from lower surfaces at least once throughout the day (both in and out of work). Whether it be packages, weights, children, groceries, something you dropped on the floor, etc., knowing how to properly lift is extremely important for your physical health.

When lifting, it is important to remember the 5 L’s:

1. Load- know your limits! If an object is too heavy, do not be afraid to ask for help.

2. Lever- for heavier objects, it is important to decrease the lever arm (your arm length usually). Lifting something closer to your body will decrease the  strain on your back and also make it easier to lift.

3. Lordosis- always do your best to maintain a neutral spine when lifting and avoid bending over (even if it is for something of little weight). It is also important to remember to minimize the amount of twisting you do when lifting something. Rather than twisting to put a box/groceries/etc on a table, try doing a small pivot.

4. Lungs- believe it or not, breathing is important in a heavy lift. A good rule of thumb is to take a deep inhale when preparing for the lift and then exhale during the lift. The biggest thing to remember is to NOT hold your breath when lifting something heavy.

5. Legs- you’ve probably heard it loads of times, but here it is again – lift with your legs NOT your back. Your legs can produce more power during a heavy lift than your back. Using your legs can also help you maintain a neutral spine.

So whether you are at the gym lifting weights, picking up your phone, lifting up groceries, or picking up your young one, remember these tips and your back will be sure to thank you.

Written by: Dr. Taylor Ryan, staff physical therapist at HPT

Proper Lifting Techniques to Avoid Lower Back Pain

1. Squat Technique
– Get close to the object
– Separate your feet shoulder width apart
– Keeping back straight, hinge at your hips and bend at your knees
– Extend your arms and pick up the object

Squat Technique

2. 1/2 Kneel Technique
– Get close to the object
– Step forward with one leg to position yourself into a lunge position
– Keeping back straight, lower your body
– Extend your arms and pick up the object

Half Kneel Technique

3. Golfers Technique (ONLY for smaller and lighter objects)
– Get close to the object
– Keep back straight
– Pendulum at hip joint in one motion to reach the object
– Extend your arm and pick up the object

Golfer Technique

How to Prevent Back Injury with Lifting and Household Chores

Many of us have gone to pick something up from the floor or move a piece of furniture and felt some type of back discomfort.  Good body mechanics during lifting or moving objects can prevent back injury by putting less strain on your back muscles.  Listed below are guidelines to prevent back injury with lifting and household chores.

Guidelines to prevent back injury with lifting

  1. When lifting an object, stand with your feet shoulder width apart or 1 foot in front of the other.
  2. When picking something up off the ground, bend with your knees and hinge at your hips keeping the normal curves in your back.  Do not slouch forward.
  3. Also, tighten your lower abdominal muscles (refer to blog topic- Can back pain be prevented?) and maintain the contraction throughout the lift. Your abdominal muscles and your back muscles work together to give support to your spine.
  4. When lifting, keep the object close to your body.
  5. Use your legs and buttocks to straighten back up, not your back.
  6. Carry things at waist level.
  7. If you must reach for the object, stand on a chair or stool.  Do not arch your back.
  8. PUSH, do not pull when you are moving an object.

Guidelines to prevent back injury with household chores.

  1. Washing dishes– to decrease back strain at the sink, open the base cabinet and put your foot up on the ledge to become closer to the sink.
  2. Vacuuming– Walk with the vacuum or lunge forward onto one foot keeping your back straight, rather than bending forward with each push of the vacuum.
  3. Making the bed– Put one knee down on the bed when fastening a sheet to the corner of the mattress or squat to fasten it.
  4. Grooming– Put one hand down on the counter in the bathroom while using the other to brush your teeth or shave. Also, you can put a foot up onto the ledge of the base cabinet as in the kitchen.

Bending at knees for objectLifting objectLifting object