Proper lifting mechanics are essential when lifting anything and I mean ANYTHING. As we touched on in the previous section, the average person is not likely to get injured due to heavy weightlifting. You are much more likely to get injured performing daily tasks without proper form or body awareness.
Remember from the previous section, “It’s the feather, not the TV that often leads to injury”?
No matter what you’re lifting, you have to learn to implement safe lifting strategies to protect yourself from injury. Here are some tips to consider when picking anything up from the ground.
When you keep your sternum up, it automatically keeps your body in a good posture and the low back maintains a slight curve. This is the body’s most mechanically strong position. Lifting in a stable position puts the least amount of stress on the spine and discs.
Sternum up forces you to lift with your legs and go into a squat position, no matter the weight of the object. Forward flexion of the lumbar spine occurs when you allow your sternum to fall forward while bending, a very vulnerable position for your low back and the intervertebral discs.
This is especially ideal for heavy lifting at the gym and at home. For example, if you have to lift one end of a couch, bend your legs and keep your chest up to get low and secure your grip. Then as you start to rise, continue keeping your sternum up and perpendicular to the floor, driving through your heels to lift.
Another strategy that is important in day to day activities is hip hinging. Hip hinging describes bending at the waist rather than at the lumbar spine. As we touched on above, bending forward and flexing the lumbar spine creates a vulnerability in the tissues.
When you add a load to that motion you are putting yourself at risk of injury. The way to combat this is by learning how to bend at the waist.
We want to keep our spine in a neutral posture, drive our hips backwards, and bend forward at the waist. The goal is to NEVER bend from your back. It may not feel natural at first, however with some practice it should become second nature.
Keep your arms at your side and bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Your hands should be perpendicular to your body. This is your primary power zone. Superior to this area up to the shoulders and inferior down to the hips are also a safe “power zone” to work in.
Working within this region will put the least amount of fatigue and stress on your body.
When you have to lower a weight you are lifting, lower it by using your legs while keeping your sternum up instead moving the weight out of your power zone (ie: below the hips) If you have to move the weight to the side, make a conscious effort to take one step to the side instead of simply rotating your low back.
When you are carrying a weight, it increases load on the spine. Within your power zone you are stable but the moment you try and rotate with the weight it can put dangerous stresses on the spine. This will put you at higher risk of injuring your low back.
Write down one action step you can take to move away from back pain, and return to pain-free living. If you would like us to take a look at what's going on in your back, contact our office and schedule an appointment today.