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Lifting and bending the right way

Many people injure their backs when they lift objects. When you reach your 30s, 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.

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 boss. 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

Alternate Names

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

References

Patel M, Shah K. Back: cervical thoracolumbar spine. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 31.

Update Date: 10/14/2013

Updated by: C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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