Protecting Your BackUse Proper Body Mechanics for Back Protection
-- By Sara Hambidge, Physical Therapist
We've all heard the advice, "lift with your legs," and this guidance is especially true for people with weak, injured or arthritic joints.
Your body undergoes a great deal of stress and changes throughout your lifespan. The last thing it needs is additional stress caused by improperly lifting, bending, or getting out of bed. Here's why.
The lower back and sacroiliac joints (located at the lower back on each side of the spine) are particularly vulnerable. Twisting or incorrectly lifting objects can place undue stress on this area of the body, which is already susceptible to injury, aches, and pains. For these reasons, it's essential that you learn how to use the mechanics of your own body to your advantage, whether picking up clothing off the ground or carrying a heavy box.
Simply put, your leg muscles are stronger than your back muscles, so use them! Below are some simple techniques that will help keep your spine healthy:
- Always use your legs when lifting. Bend at the knees, not from the waist.
- Squat down or kneel to pick up items off the floor.
- Hold objects close to your body as you carry them.
- While holding anything heavy in your arms, avoid twisting from the waist. Turn your entire body instead.
- Avoid carrying your laundry basket on one hip. This creates poor posture.
- Adjust your work areas, such as countertops or tables, to a height that allows you to stand up straight without leaning over.
Exhale and tighten your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles as you lift.
Getting up from floor: Roll onto your side first, and then push through your hands to come to an upright position. Come to a kneeling position, then place one foot forward on the floor. Place your hands on your forward knee. Use your legs and arms to push yourself to a standing position.
Getting out of bed: Roll onto your side first, and then push through your hands to come to an upright position. Swing legs over the side of the bed and sit up, then use legs and arms to come to a standing position.
Lifting items from the floor: Squat or kneel down, without bending from the waist. Keep the object as close to your body as possible when transferring. Exhale and contract your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles as you straighten your legs to stand up.
Bathing a child or pet: If using the bathtub, kneel next to it. If using the sink, stand up straight, bending over as little as possible. Place one foot on a stool or open sink cabinet in front of you will alleviate the stress on your lower back.
- Doing laundry: Always squat or kneel to get clothes in and out of the dryer. Avoid twisting back and forth from machine to laundry basket. When folding clothes, sit with clothes in front of you, or have them on a surface that allows you to stand up straight.