Proper Lifting Technique

Most people experience some sort of back pain in their lives. In many cases, the problem can be traced back and related to the way a person carries their bodies and their habit of doing things. I will write more in-depth about the ways to take care of the back next month. This month I will focus on the proper lifting techniques, since people suffer micro- and macro-injuries from lifting.

Things to consider prior to lifting

  • Estimate your ability
    This is using common sense. Look at the object you need to lift and judge whether the weight is beyond your ability to handle. If you have any doubt, ask for help. Spliting the weight with another person can greatly reduce the stress on the body.
  • Plan your route
    Look at the path you need to carry the object from point A to point B. Remove any obstacles in the way so you don’t need to go around it with the heavy object in your hands. Twisting the body when it is loaded can tremendously increase stress to the discs and the muscles of the spine.
  • Create space
    You need space to perform lifting. When the space is tight, you may need to twist your body in order to squeeze yourself in. Injury is likely to happen when you function in an awkward position.

Actual Lifting

The following is the sequence of proper lifting:

  1. Face the direction which you need to go.
  2. Get as close as possible to the object you need to lift.
  3. Bend your knees to lower yourself. Don’t bend forward with the upper body.
  4. Grab the object with your hands and forearms, keeping it close to your body.
  5. Lift the object by straightening the knees. Your back should be straight throughout.
  6. Carry the object and walk toward where you need to go without turning or twisting.
  7. Lower the object by bending at the knees and not with the back.

For those with bulging disc back problems, it is recommended the back extension (bending backward) should be done before and after lifting to protect the disc.

In using this lifting technique, the injury to the back can be greatly reduced. However, this method of lifting places a lot of stress on the knees. In general, the knee muscles are much stronger than the back and are more equipped to take the stress of lifting. Therefore, those with bad knees may find it difficult. In those cases, asking for assistance probably is a better choice than doing it by oneself.

Peggy Hau, PT, MscPT is a licensed physical therapist at Mettler Center. Have questions about back injuries? Ask an Expert. Your injury can be evaluated by a physical therapist who can detect functional problems and make the best possible recommendation for treatment. Call 217-398-9800 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation with a physical therapist or request an appointment online.