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Editor’s Note: This is the last of two articles outlining the best practices for preventing back injuries in the workplace. The first article was published earlier this week.
Maintaining proper posture while sitting, standing and sleeping can help maintain optimal back health. Yet even if you have ideal posture 24 hours per day, it won’t prevent you from hurting your back through a straining or lifting injury.
Back sprains can occur when the ligaments (the fibrous bands connecting the back’s bones together) or tendons (the bands of tissues connecting muscles to bones) become stretched beyond their limits. When a sprain occurs, a sharp, persistent pain is felt followed by swelling.
Proper Lifting Techniques
Learning the proper techniques while lifting heavy objects is one of the best ways to ensure that your back will remain strong and healthy both at work and at home. Avoiding these most common lifting mistakes are essential for optimal back health:
- Never lift anything heavy while bending forward at the legs with the legs straight. This causes all the force to be transmitted to the muscles in your lower back. Instead, bend at the knees and let your powerful leg and butt muscles take most of the load.
- Avoid using fast, jerky motions while lifting. This puts too much stress on your lower back muscle and can easily lead to muscle strains.
- When lifting a heavy object, avoid bending or twisting your spine. Remember, the back naturally takes an “S” shape. When you twist your back while lifting, it transfers the weight to the weaker muscles, increasing the risk of back injury.
- Don’t hold the object too far away from your body while lifting it. The back essentially works as a lever. When you increase the distance, more stress is placed on the back muscles.
- Always plan your lift before executing it. Size of the estimated weight and shape of the object and check your path of travel to make sure it is clear of obstacles. If you think the weight might be too much for your back, always ask for help.
8 Steps to Proper Lifting
Proper lifting requires you to follow the 8 Steps to Proper Lifting:
1. Size of the load
2. Plan the job
3. Establish a base of support. Use a wide, balanced stance and have firm footing your feet under your shoulders.
4. Bend your knees and move as close to the object as you can. Always lift with your legs, not your back.
5. Get a good grip on the object. Make sure you can hold the weight without having to make adjustments later. If necessary, wear gloves to maintain proper gripping.
6. Lift gradually without using jerking motions. Remember, lift with your legs not your back.
7. Keep the object close to prevent your lower back from arching. Always try to maintain the neutral “S” shape of your back.
8. Pivot, don’t twist, moving your feet in the direction of the lift. Twisting your waist can easily injure your back.
Healthy Back for Life
Knowing your limitations and respecting your back will help you prevent injury and protect against strains and sprains. Combined with good posture and healthy sitting, sleeping and standing habits, you can avoid the pain and weakness that are associated with back injuries.