Proper lifting technique and body mechanics are essential to back safety and health. It is important to maintain proper spinal position with lifting, known as the neutral spine. This position promotes the natural S-shaped curvature of the spine and is the position roughly midway between a full arch and full rounding of your lower back. The risk of injury to the low back increases when lifting with the back muscles, bending at the waist, twisting or when the load is too heavy. Common injuries associated with lifting are strains, sprains and herniated discs.
Preparing to Lift
The first thing you must do to ensure safe lifting of any object is to plan your task. Determine where you will be moving the item to and ensure a clear path. Determine how you will need to lift to maintain proper positioning or good body mechanics. Finally, you must determine if you will need assistance to safely manage the task, including an additional person or lifting equipment
The key points to lifting safely are load, lever, lordosis, lungs and legs. You must ensure that the load is manageable or get assistance. To maintain a short lever arm, the load must always be kept close to your body. Maintain the natural S-shaped curve of the spine, or lordosis, and tighten your core muscles as you lift. Do not hold your breath; exhale as you lift the object. Always use your leg muscles for safe lifting; never depend on your back muscles to do the work. You should never bend forward at the waist to pick up items from a lower surface. It is important to never twist your spine, which increases the compressive forces and can result in further injury. If you must turn the item, then turn your feet and step around to avoid twisting in the back.
Lifting From Varied Heights
If you are lifting from the floor or a lower surface, squat or kneel. Hold the item close to you, and do not bend at your waist. You may need to rest the item on your knee as you transition to a full standing position from kneeling. If squatting, place the object between your knees in preparation for the lift. When lowering the load to a lower surface height, bend your knees and do not use your back. If lifting overhead, use a stool to bring you closer to the desired height of the object and always keep the object in front of you.
Bending at the waist creates significant compressive forces on the back even without lifting an item. Even for small, lightweight items, you should practice squatting or kneeling. Another option for safe lifting of small objects is the golfer's lift. To perform this lift correctly, you need to maintain the natural arch of your spine. As you reach down with one arm, lift the opposite leg to counterbalance and maintain proper spinal position. You may choose to hold to a stable surface with the nonlifting hand if you feel unbalanced.