You’ve probably heard the phrase “lift with your knees, not your back”. Even though this phrase might sound a little cliché, it is a great piece of advice that should be kept in mind when performing strenuous activities. Using good body mechanics, especially when lifting heavy objects, can help you protect the structures around your spine and avoid injuries that lead to back or neck pain.
Here are a few tips to help you develop good body mechanics:
Tip #1: Squat to pick up objects from the floor
Avoid bending forward with a rounded back when lifting objects from the floor or a low surface. Instead, bend at the knees and squat down. Remember to keep your back flat and neck in a neutral position. This is also the best way to put heavy objects down.
Tip #2: Use the golfer’s lift to pick up small, light objects
This technique, depicted in the image to the right, is useful for picking up small, light objects from the ground. Notice how the woman in the picture staggers her stance, shifts her weight onto her front leg, and hinges at the hips while keeping her back flat.
Tip #3: Hold heavy objects close to your body
Always hold and carry heavy objects close to your body to avoid placing unnecessary stress on your muscles, ligaments, and joints. Keeping an object close to your body also decreases the amount of force you need to generate, which can make the task feel easier and reduce your risk of injury.
Tip #4: Never twist your body when moving objects
This is important not only when lifting heavy objects, but also when performing activities such as transferring groceries from your cart onto the conveyor belt or moving clothes from the washer to the dryer. Instead of picking an object up, twisting your trunk, and putting it down, try taking small steps with your feet to turn your entire body.
Tip #5: When lifting from a higher surface, use a stepstool
Instead of standing on your tiptoes or arching your back to lift from or return objects to a high surface, use a stepstool. This will allow you to maintain a neutral spine and will also make the task feel easier.
Moral of the story
Work smarter, not harder. Before you attempt to lift an object, formulate a plan. You should have an idea of how heavy the object is, how you are going to lift it, and how you are going to get it to its destination. Whenever possible, try to minimize the distance that you need to carry the object. If an object is ever too heavy for you to lift safely, find a second person to help. Make sure you take your time, and don’t assume that you can’t injure yourself when using a risky technique just because you’ve done it before.
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