It’s easy to suffer a back injury when lifting heavy objects.
Whether your work requires frequent heavy lifting or you only occasionally lift large or unwieldy items, you’re at risk for a sprain, strain, herniated disk or other painful spine-related problems. Learning — and remembering — to use safe lifting techniques can help you avoid suffering a back injury.
Safe lifting begins with planning. Before you start to lift a heavy object, decide where it will go and the path you’ll take to get it there. If you think the weight might be too much to safely handle alone, ask for help.
Keep the Weight Close to Your Body
As you lift, hold the object close to your body — not near the end of your reach. This will help keep the item stable, which can help you avoid back injury.
Keep Your Feet Shoulder-Width Apart
A solid base of support is essential for safe lifting and preventing back injury. Make sure your feet are about shoulder-width apart and take small steps for better stability.
Bend at the Knees
If the heavy object is on the floor or a low shelf, squat before trying to pick it up. Tuck your chin and keep your back straight as you lift, resting the item on one knee as you prepare to stand.
Lift with Your Legs
If anyone ever told you to lift with your legs, not with your back, they were right. Your leg muscles are much stronger than your back muscles, and if you put their power to work, you may be able to better avoid injury.
Tighten Your Stomach Muscles
When you lift a heavy object, tighten your abdominal muscles. Keeping your core muscles tight puts your spine in a safe lifting position and helps prevent the extra weight from causing an injury.
Don’t Twist Your Body
When you’re carrying a heavy item, face your body in the direction you need to go. Don’t twist your spine while walking or when putting an object down. If you need to turn, do so in small steps and lead with your hips, not your torso.
Don’t Carry a Load on One Side
To avoid suffering a back injury, make sure the load you are carrying is balanced. Lifting and carrying a heavy object on one shoulder, in one hand or under an arm creates uneven pressure on the spine.
Don’t Rely on a Back Belt
Workers in many different industries wear back belts, also known as back supports or abdominal belts because they believe these supports help prevent injury. However, scientific evidence doesn’t prove that weight belt support devices are effective. For this reason, the supports are not recommended for workers who have never suffered a back injury.
Using safe lifting techniques can help you avoid downtime from preventable injuries. For more information and tips, schedule a consultation with a local spine or back injury specialist.