“Lift with your legs, not your back!” We’ve heard it many times before, but what does it mean, and why should we do it? Lifting heavy objects is an easy way to injure your back if done incorrectly. In fact, just working a job that requires lifting is a risk factor for developing back pain. But whether you’re lifting at work, at the gym, or at home, it is important to use proper form to decrease your risk of injury.
Start with a strong, stable base. Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart, and get as close to the object as you can. Brace your core to support your spine. Imagine drawing your belly button in towards your spine; this will activate a muscle called the Transverse Abdominis (your built-in back brace!). This will help you to maintain a neutral spinal position as well. While a healthy spine is built to move in many directions, it is safest to maintain the natural curve of your spine when lifting heavy objects. This means avoiding rounding your low back. Use your legs to lower yourself down to the object by sitting your hips back and bending your knees. Keep the object as close to you as possible. The closer the object is to your center of gravity (around your belly button), the easier it will be to hold. Use your leg muscles to return to a standing position, pushing through your heels. This will utilize your stronger muscles to do most of the work. To avoid injury while holding the object, avoid twisting. Make sure your feet and shoulders are facing the same direction while holding the object. And lastly, know when to ask for help. Some objects are simply too big, heavy, or awkwardly shaped to be lifted by one person. Don’t suffer from a back injury and bruised ego because you didn’t ask for help!
If you’ve already suffered from a back injury, come see us at Empower Physical Therapy. This is a very common condition that physical therapists are well trained to treat. We can help manage your pain and teach you proper lifting techniques for the future.
If you’ve been told to “lift with your legs,” but never understood what it meant, hopefully, this brought you some clarity. We also have a video with demonstrations of the techniques outlined above for your reference.
Posted by Ashley Warner, PT, DPT, from our Empower PT - Glendale MetroCenter location.