Body Mechanics to Prevent Back Injury

Lifting is often an inevitable part of most people’s day.  But do we all use the proper mechanics to avoid injury?  Likely, the answer is no.  There are many things that you can do to protect your back from injury, not just during lifting, but during other daily activities as well.  First and foremost, it is essential to pay attention to your overall posture.  Having just one part of your body out of the neutral position will impact the rest of your posture.  Here are some tips for proper neutral sitting position:

  1. Keep the head level or slightly downward – make sure your work is placed straight in front of you and not off to the side
  2. Sit with your shoulders level and square, but relaxed and keep the elbows by the sides and the wrists straight
  3. Make sure your low back is supported well by the chair or an external support and your entire upper body is upright
  4. Make sure that your chair height allows your feet to rest on the floor with the knees resting at the same level or slightly below the level of your hips

Remember that no matter how good your posture may be – prolonged positioning is not healthy!  Make sure to make slight adjustments to your posture at least every 15 minutes or stand, stretch, or walk around as you are able.

Next, here is a review of some tips to improve mechanics with lifting.  There are many activities that require lifting and there are many ways to ensure a safe lift.

  1. Test the weight. If it’s too heavy for you, get help or reduce the load.
  2. Stand close to the object to be lifted and utilize a squat, half kneel, or golf pick-up method for lifting and keep the object in the “safe lifting zone” which is between your knees and shoulders
  3. Keep the load close to your body and avoid twisting
  4. Keep your back straight and tighten the stomach muscles as you stand smoothly and slowly letting the large leg muscles do the work

Lastly, here are tips for some other daily activities:

  1. When getting in/out of the vehicle, don’t twist, bring both feet out of the vehicle before standing up
  2. Break up activities that require standing for long periods of time. Propping a foot on a small stool or ledge helps relieve pressure on the low back as well.  Make sure you are wearing shoes with good support.
  3. Avoid overhead activities – use a step stool or ladder if you can do so safely to bring the activity to a better level. Utilize long handled reachers and brushes.
  4. When sweeping, vacuuming, raking, shoveling — don’t twist!! Keep your back straight and your stomach tight.  Stay close to the work area and position yourself to use your body weight to help with the job.
  5. It is always better to PUSH rather than PULL. Before pulling something, try to think of a way to push it first.   Test the weight of the load and make sure your path is clear.  Bend your knees and keep your back straight and stomach tight as you push, using your arms and your legs together!

If you experience a lifting injury or if you want to participate in an injury prevention program, your licensed Physical Therapist can design an individualized exercise plan to improve flexibility, improve strength, and provide you with better movement/lifting strategies.  All of our Physical Therapists at Rehab Associates are Direct Access certified to offer immediate care without a physician’s referral (depending on your type of insurance – call to find out if yours will allow Direct Access referrals).

For more information on how you can be assessed or if you would like a free 10-minute consultation over the phone to determine what services are right for you, call 1-855-RACV4PT today!

“We are Physical Therapy…Our Goal is Your Success!”

Contributed by:  Jessica Moran, PT, DPT

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