Why is the most common phrase associated with lifting “bend with your knees”? Bending the knees and hips helps maintain the back’s natural curves. Using the legs to do most of the lifting as well as holding the object close to the body takes pressure off the spine, and helps to avoid injury. When lifting incorrectly with straight legs and a rounded back, the back’s three natural curves are lost, making the back do most of the work.
Think Before You Lift
It is important to size up the load before it is lifted. If the load is too bulky or heavy to safely lift alone, get help. If there is no one to help, find a better way such as using a pushcart, hand truck, wheelbarrow, or forklift. Also, make sure that the pathway is clear to avoid a slip, trip, and fall hazard while lifting.
How to Lift Properly
- Feet should be shoulder width apart with toes pointed out to give the body a stable base.
- Bend at the knees and hips to get the chest as close to the load as possible.
- Tighten stomach muscles while lifting to support the spine.
- Lift with the legs and maintain the back’s natural curves.
- Keep the load close to the body, as it minimizes stress on the back.
- Keep the back upright and avoid twisting when lifting or lowering the load so that your body’s weight is not added to the weight of the load.
When Using a Mechanical Aid
- It is easier and safer to push than to pull.
- Stay close to the load, try not to lean over, and keep your back straight.
- Use both hands to control the hand truck or pushcart.
- If necessary, use tie-down straps to secure the load.
- Avoid stairs and inclines. If you must take a load to another floor, use a freight elevator.
Keeping Your Back in Shape
Reducing stress, eating right, improving your posture, and getting regular exercise can help minimize back injuries, though most back pain can be traced to a lack of exercise. A regular exercise program to strengthen the muscles in the back, upper legs, and stomach will increase the spine’s support. In addition, increasing flexibility while strengthening will make motion easier.
To improve your posture, follow these tips:
- Stand up straight and avoid slouching.
- If you must stand for long periods of time, use a footrest or anti-fatigue mats.
- Select and use appropriate footwear that is comfortable.
- Sitting is actually harder on your back than standing.
- Sit up straight and avoid slouching.
- If you must sit for long periods of time, consider using a pillow or towel to support your lower back.
- Select and use a chair that fits you. Make sure that when you are sitting that your knees are slightly higher than your hips.
While Lying Down
- Avoid a sagging mattress.
- Sleep on your side with your knees bent or on your back. Avoid sleeping on your stomach with your head resting on a stack of pillows.
For More Information
This website has a free on-line presentation on back safety that includes short quiz questions.
The following websites have back safety videos available: