Safer Lifting Mechanics

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Lifting is a functional task in our daily lives. Most of us have heard the phrase “lift with your legs, not with your back”. I have heard one too many of my patients say – “my back went out when I was lifting.” Sometimes it’s their form and sometimes it’s their neuromuscular imbalances that predispose them to injuries with repetitive tasks. Either way, here are a few things to consider for safer lifting mechanics:

  • The load should be as close to the body as possible and as light as practical. A load held closer to your body will have a shorter lever arm and minimize the force demand on the back muscles.

  • Hinge at the hips and bend your knees as if you were squatting to minimize the force on low back muscles. Extensive repetitive forces produced by low back muscles can predispose the muscles themselves, discs, vertebral end plates to injury. This technique will help you recruit your buttock (gluteal) muscles and knee extensor muscles for a powerful lift.

  • Lift with your spine in a “neutral” position or as close to it as possible. Avoid extreme bending forward (flexion) or bending backwards (extension) positions.

  • Minimize twisting when lifting as excessive torsional forces can predispose one to intervertebral disc injury if the musculo-skeletal and neuromuscular systems are not trained to adapt to the load.

  • Have a wider base of support with your legs, or even a slightly staggered stance depending on where the load is placed. The wider stance will provide more stability, and decrease risk for falling.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help – sometimes the load is not meant to be lifted by one person. Ask for help and communicate well with another person on lifting strategies and directions.

Last but not least – engage in safe physical activity that meets your body’s demands to build up a balanced, symmetrical,  well functioning neuromuscular system that will help you build awareness of where your joints are in space, what muscles work when, and how to move your body more efficiently. Here at CHARM, we offer 1:1  individualized sessions with our team of physical therapists to help you address any further questions or concerns that you may have. Physical therapists are movement specialists and we are here to help you unlock your potential!


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