Back injuries caused during lifting weights are quite common. Almost every adult person, during his or her working lives, experiences back injury or pain from lifting.1 This leads to absence from work, serious suffering and if not taken care of, it can be long-lasting and disabling.
Back injury can be the result of a number of causes such as repetitive tasks, straining of the same position for years, awkward positions etc. However, the most common cause of back injury would be improper way of lifting objects. When you lift a heavy object without following the preventive measures that can help you to prevent the back injury, chances are high that your back will be injured, causing severe pain and long-lasting disability.
However, the back injury caused from lifting can be prevented easily, if you take care of a few things. Before you delve into the preventive measures, you need to understand your back or spine.
Understanding Your Back or Spine Structure and Back Injury
Your back is composed of –
There are 33 vertebrae or cylindrical bones that are enclosed together vertically to form the spine.2 These vertebrae are separated by discs that contain a jelly-like substance, which actually acts like a cushion to absorb the shock that is caused to the spine. On top of the spinal cord is the brain and from the spine, nerves stretch out. These nerves are spread across the body and they carry messages around the body. The bone joints and cartilage are supported by muscles, tendons and ligaments, or fibrous tissues. A strain on any of the structures while lifting can cause pain.
Back injury can be long term as well as short term. They can be caused due to a number of reasons, amongst which lifting is the most common cause. Any of the components of the back such as the vertebrae, muscles, ligaments, nerves or tendons can be injured, leading to severe pain and other long-lasting troubles.
How to Prevent Back Injury from Lifting?
There are quite a number of things that need to be kept in mind when you are about to lift something, especially a heavy object. These might seem simple, but they are actually very important for a strain and sprain free lifting experience without causing any injury to the back.
- Posture for Preventing Back Injury from Lifting: Right posture of the body while lifting is the most important factor that you need to consider to prevent back injury. The right posture would be –
- Keeping the wrists straight and not twisted or bent.
- Bend your knees.
- Keep the heels off the floor.
- If possible, keep one foot lifted up on a stool or something high to reduce pressure on the back.
- Keep the spine naturally aligned and not bent or too straight or twisted.
- Lift with your legs and not with your back.
With these simple tips regarding the right posture, you will be able to lift an object without injuring the back. The ways to prevent back injury include:
- Keep the Object Close to the Body While Lifting to Prevent Back Injury: It is also important that you keep the object that you want to lift as close to your body as possible. Holding it far from the body will not only increase the weight, but it will require more force to hold the object. Holding it close will put less pressure on the body and hence, the back will be less likely to be injured.
- Regular Exercise to Prevent Back Injury from Lifting: If you are into regular lifting jobs or even if you are not, it is important that you maintain a good physical health. For that some simple stretching and strengthening activities would be suitable. Some suitable exercises would include –
- Sit Back: Sit on the floor with your knees bent and the arms straight in front. Slowly lie on the floor with your back and lift the back again to the initial position. Repeat this posture for a few times.
- Side and Hip Stretch: Stand by stretching your legs side apart and the hands resting on the hip. Bend to one side to the extent you can and feel a stretch from the waist to the sides of the hip. Hold the position for 10 seconds and come back to the normal position. Now bend to the other side to get the same benefit.
- Cat and Dog Exercise: Start with the palms and knees on the floor and the back in a horizontal position with the floor. Slowly lift your head, while you inhale and look upwards, with the stomach falling downwards. Then, slowly exhale and look downwards towards the floor and the stomach arched, pulling your stomach muscles upwards.
Along with these exercises, the hamstring stretch and pelvic tilt are also useful to keep the back strong.
- Measure the Weight of the Object in Advance: Before you lift the object, you should have an idea of its weight. You must not try beyond your capacity. If you find that the weight is too much, you should either seek help or you should use mechanical tools to lift the object. There is an easy way to measure whether you are capable of lifting an object or not and that is through breathing. If you need to breathe heavily, you need to ask for help.
- Positioning the Object to Prevent Back Injury While Lifting: The position of the object is also very important if you want to make sure that you do not injure your back after lifting an object. The ideal position of the object to be lifted is above the knee level and below the shoulders. Anything that is positioned above the shoulders or below the knee level might cause injury to the back.
Mistakes Leading to Back Injury from Lifting
The mistakes which are instrumental in causing the back injury while lifting needs to be kept in mind and avoid for preventing the injuries. In most cases, they are associated with wrong body postures or lifting postures. These are –
- Bending Forward with Straight Legs: This causes more strain and stress to the back muscles. Along with the weight of the object, the upper body weight is also included. Hence, this posture must be avoided to prevent injuries.
- Bending and Twisting the Body: When you bend forward to lift an object and twist your back, it disrupts the natural curve of the spine. This reduces the spine strength, making it weak, thus leading to injury.
- Jerky Movements: Jerks put more stress and strain to your back muscles and can cause injury and pain.
- Distance between the Object and Body: If there is gap or distance between the body and the object, it will put more pressure to the back and lead to failure to lift the object as well as injure the back.
Dos and Don’ts to Prevent Back Injury from Lifting
- Tighten your abdominal muscles or stomach muscles.
- Move the feet, rather than bending or twisting them.
- Get a good grip or hold of the object.
- Do not use jerky movements and do not twist.
- Do not hold the breathe.
- Take breaks and do not overdo your body.
It is only you, who will know the limitation and potential of your body. So, follow these tips and avoid repetitive lifting tasks.