Lifting Techniques

Chiropractor Rockville, MD

Untold numbers of musculoskeletal injuries occur every day when people lift objects without using proper lifting techniques. Even a so-called simple task of lifting a box from the ground to place on a higher level such as a shelf or table can cause muscle and back strain if not done correctly.  There are many other factors that can affect your susceptibility to injury such as hydration, nutritional status, muscle imbalance and stress levels to name just a few. Doing every little bit you can to prevent injury, like using proper lifting techniques, is vital to maintaining an active and healthy life.

Remember this simple rule when lifting: Never bend from your waist when attempting to pick something up. Keep your back straight and crouch first by bending at the knees or hips, depending on where the item is that you are lifting. This allows your arm and leg muscles, not your back muscles, to handle the brunt of the work.

 This illustration shows how to properly lift and carry an object.

Back injuries due to improper lifting techniques generally lead to three kinds of injuries to the muscles, vertebral discs, and joint structures. Here is a brief synopsis of those types of injuries:

  • Disc injury – Improper lifting can cause the soft cushions between your vertebrae, called discs, to tear, rupture, or shift out of position. Often, the fibrous rings surrounding the soft leathery discs can bulge and even rupture. Such an injury can cause the dislocated or ruptured disc to press against a nerve, causing pain and numbness to radiate down into your buttocks and/or leg and foot.
  • Joint injury – You may be surprised to know there are numerous joints in your spinal column connecting all of the various bony structures. Lifting improperly can cause excessive strain along these joints, irritating the soft tissues within them, and in some cases, causing them to lock up.
  • Muscle injury – If you change your body position during a lift, a lot of stress is placed upon your lower back muscles. This can also occur if you lift something too rapidly or sometimes if you haven't "warmed your muscles up" before starting to lift. This can easily strain and injure a muscle or group of muscles. Muscle strains and sprains are very common and usually result in minor tears or spasms of the affected musculature.

Here are some simple lifting techniques to help you avoid these kinds of injuries:

  1. Make sure that you have a place to put the object you have lifted. Do not try to determine this while holding the object. Position your body close to and in front of the object. Your feet should be flat on the floor and about a shoulder-width apart.
  2. If you need to turn during the lift, use your feet to pivot. Keep your elbows bent while carrying an object and try to avoid unnecessary rotation in the trunk of your body.
  3. Your leg muscles—not those in your back—should be the ones providing the power during your motion to stand erect.
  4. Keep the load as close to your body as possible to maximize the use of your arm and shoulder muscles. The further an object is from your center of gravity, the more force that is required to hold that object up.
  5. Keep your chest forward and bend at your hips (not the lower back) or your knees, depending on how far below you the item is that you want to lift. Keep your shoulders in line with your hips to avoid twisting motions.
  6. When lifting, push your chest out, pointing forward. Avoid twisting or turning during the lift.
  7. Lead with your hips, not your shoulders, keeping your shoulders in line with your hips. If you need to change direction, move your hips first; this way, your shoulders will move in unison with your hips. If you move your shoulders before your hips, this will make it easier for your body to twist during the lift, leading to possible strains and other injuries to your back and pelvis.
  8. Don't lift an object that is obviously too heavy. Test the weight of the object by pushing it with your foot. If it is very difficult or impossible to push with your foot, it is likely that the object is more than your body can handle.

Proper use of the body's natural biomechanics is key to preventing injury and living a life without pain.  Along with using proper lifting techniques, getting your body properly balanced nutritionally and musculoskeletally and reducing your stress levels are also important in prevention of lifting injuries. If you have any questions or wish to look further into what Synergy Chiropractic has to offer, please feel free to Contact Us or view Our Services page.