A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

How to avoid a back injury from lifting

4 tips to prevent a back injury while lifting objectsWe move in the direction that our eyes see. This means we can easily create a back injury by twisting and stretching more than we should, when lifting, pushing and reaching.

“When you’re moving furniture, carrying boxes up stairs or putting items up onto shelves your body will better prepare itself to handle the load when you position yourself starting with your feet,” said Erik Smith, D.P.T., physical therapist with Marshfield Clinic Health System.

Avoid back lifting

“Make a plan for how you’re going to accomplish each lift. By remembering to position from the bottom up, you help maintain proper posture and body mechanics throughout the movement,” he said.

You know that slight inward curve in your back?

“It’s called a lumbar lordosis and should be maintained whether you are standing, sitting or lifting,” Smith said. “You can maintain this natural, normal spinal curve by bending your knees and hips and lifting with your legs, not your back.”

Smith suggests keeping in mind these tips to avoid back injury from lifting:

  • Always bend from the hip, not your back.
  • Always keep objects you’re lifting close to your center of gravity and as close to waist level as possible.
  • Never lift heavier items beyond your limit. Ask for help if you need it.
  • When placing items on shelves, step up as close as possible before setting them down.
  • When pushing or pulling items on the ground or on shelves, keep your back in a neutral position, with staggered feet. Shift your weight back and forth on your legs rather than bending your back.
  • Avoid repetitive twisting at the low back and especially avoid back bending and twisting. Keep your shoulders in line with your toes and always square up, facing surfaces you are lifting to and from.

Take your time

Whether you’re moving your son or daughter into a college dorm or new apartment, doing serious spring cleaning or just rearranging furniture, slow down and think feet first, said Smith.

“Don’t let the anticipation of finishing the job or excitement of settling in get in the way of using proper lifting techniques,” he said.

In addition to thinking about body mechanics, Smith recommends:

  • Using gloves and handles to get the best grip.
  • Clearing the path so you don’t trip.

“Above all, take your time and mentally prepare for each task. Your body will follow what you ask it to do,” he said. “You want to be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor without back injury.”

Good posture and strong core muscles help keep your back healthy. Here are two stretches to save your posture at work. Add core muscle strengthening to your fitness routine with this video series.

Watch video of our Marshfield Clinic Health System physical therapists sharing some tips on how to avoid back injuring when moving a couch.

For back pain help, talk to a Marshfield Clinic Health System provider.

Schedule appointment Message your provider

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