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Lifting and bending the right way

Description

Many people injure their backs when they lift objects. When you reach your 30's, you are more likely to hurt your back when you bend to lift something up or put it down.

This may be because you have injured the muscles, ligaments, or disks in your spine in the past. Also, as we get older our muscles and ligaments become less flexible. And, the disks that act as cushions between the bones of our spine become more brittle as we age. All of these things make us more prone to having a back injury.

Alternative Names

Nonspecific back pain - lifting; Backache - lifting; Sciatica - lifting; Lumbar pain - lifting; Chronic back pain - lifting; Herniated disk - lifting; Slipped disk - lifting

How you can Prevent Injury

Know how much you can safely lift. Think about how much you have lifted in the past and how easy or hard that was. If an object seems too heavy or awkward, get help with it.

If your work requires you to do lifting that may not be safe for your back, talk to your supervisor. Try to determine the most weight you should have to lift. You may need to meet with a physical therapist or occupational therapist to learn how to safely lift this amount of weight.

To help prevent back pain and injury when you bend and lift:

  • Spread your feet apart to give your body a wide base of support
  • Stand as close as possible to the object you are lifting
  • Bend at your knees, not at your waist or back
  • Tighten your stomach muscles as you lift the object up or lower it down
  • Hold the object as close to your body as you can
  • Slowly lift, using your muscles in your hips and knees
  • As you stand up with the object, DO NOT bend forward
  • DO NOT twist your back while you bend to reach the object, lift the object, or carry the object
  • Squat as you set the object down, using the muscles in your knees and hips. Keep your back straight when you squat down.

References

Bahr R, Shimer A, Onate J, Kaminski TW. Injury prevention. In: Miller MD, Thompson SR, eds. DeLee and Drez's Orthopaedic Sports Medicine. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 41.

Lemmon R, Leonard J. Neck and back pain. In: Rakel RE, Rakel D, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 31.

Review Date:7/13/2015
Reviewed By:C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, San Francisco, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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