Avoiding Back Injuries
Hindsight can be a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t do you much good once you’ve been hurt. And the problem for the spine is that it can be hurt in so many different ways. Vertical compressions from sitting down too hard, lateral hyper-extensions from your car running into someone else, or just plain lifting something the wrong way. Obviously it can be hard avoiding accidents, we can’t dress ourselves in bubble-wrap all day. But we can do our best to make sure when we lift the sofa to vacuum under it we don’t end up in Accident & Emergency. Lifting injuries are often our first taste of how delicate the spine is. It might be just a tingle or a twinge, or it could be catastrophic agony that freezes us to the spot. And they can be avoided. Lifting with the back bent strains the spinal muscles. They are already stretched while you are bent over, and then when you go to stand up straight, you are using the retraction of those muscles to pull you upright. If the load is too great or the muscles are in a weakened state, then they can tear – a situation you will certainly know about when it happens.
What you need to lift with are the most powerful muscles you have available rather than the ‘light weights’ that support the spine. This is why lifting with the knees bent, pushing upwards with the legs while keeping the spine vertical – as well as straight – will put you in the best position to lift with your arms.
So here’s some things to remember when lifting.
1. Decide where you want your object to go before lifting it and that the path is clear, even if you lift correctly, you may injure yourself if you don’t have an adequate location for the object to be moved to or have to move awkwardly around something to get it there.
2. Bend down to the object with your knees, you should end up in an upright crouched position.
3. Once you have a grip of the object, push your chest forward to keep the spine straight.
4. Lift by leading with the hips, keeping the shoulders in line with the hips as you rise. At this point the muscles that are around the ankles, knees and pelvis are moving from a compressed position to an extended position – the opposite to what a bent spine would have been doing in the same scenario.
5. Keep the object as close as possible to the body. Your arms are acting like levers, which means the weight is being increased exponentially the further it is from your body.
6. Reverse the process when you need to set the object down again.
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