Lifting objects

Reduce the load.

Reducing the load on the back while lifting can help to relieve symptoms. This can be done in a number of ways. If you are able to, reduce the load by lifting less weight, or by getting others to help you. If you still need to lift, here are some ways to modify your lifting technique that can reduce load and make it better for your body.

Get as close as you can to the object you’re lifting.

This will reduce the leverage the object creates on your body and the amount you need to bend to hold the object.

Lifting an object from the ground.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at the hips and knees until you can grab ahold of the object. Make sure the feet are flat on the floor and the back is straight. Imagine there is a broomstick tied along your back from the back of your head to your tailbone. Try to avoid slumping or arching the back away from that broomstick.

There are muscles on the front and back of the torso that help you lift. It is common for people to focus on neither of these before they lift, or lift using only the muscles in the back. Because each group of muscles takes a share of the load, we want to engage as many groups as possible.

To engage the muscles in the back, simply keep the spine from bending and slumping forward.

To engage the muscle in the front, perform the Drawing In exercise discussed in this prescription. To keep the upper back from slumping as you lift, imagine pulling the shoulder blades back towards each other. Just make sure you don’t arch the lower back excessively to do this.

Engaging the muscles on the front and back of the spine will help to stabilize the trunk during the lift, but you shouldn’t try to generate the movement using these muscles. This should be done with the legs.

Once you are in position, and you have engaged the Drawing In muscles, it’s time to lift the object. To do this, imagine you are pushing the ground away with your legs, rather than picking up the object. This will engage the legs as the primary movers, rather than the back.

Once you are standing with the object, maintain the activation of your abdominal muscles and keep the object close to your body to reduce leverage. If you need to turn, keep your hips and shoulders facing in the same direction as you turn, preventing excessive twist in the back.

When placing the object down, get as close to its destination as possible before bending at the hips and knees while maintaining a straight back. Lower the object to its resting position using your legs before you allow the back to bend freely.

Practice lifting heavy things.

This explanation may seem complex, and it can be hard to try to remember these details in everyday life. This is where exercises like the Deadlift are extremely useful. Not only will it train your body to maintain good technique while lifting, but it will also strengthen the muscles so that your body is more capable of handling the tasks you demand of it.

Remember, if an object is too heavy to lift with good form, you shouldn’t lift it! Performing strengthening exercises will change your body’s notion of what’s ‘too heavy’.