Fitness Articles

Protecting Your Back

Use Proper Body Mechanics for Back Protection

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We've all heard the advice, "lift with your legs," and this guidance is especially true for people with weak, injured or arthritic joints.

Your body undergoes a great deal of stress and changes throughout your lifespan. The last thing it needs is additional stress caused by improperly lifting, bending, or getting out of bed. Here's why.

The lower back and sacroiliac joints (located at the lower back on each side of the spine) are particularly vulnerable. Twisting or incorrectly lifting objects can place undue stress on this area of the body, which is already susceptible to injury, aches, and pains. For these reasons, it's essential that you learn how to use the mechanics of your own body to your advantage, whether picking up clothing off the ground or carrying a heavy box.

Simply put, your leg muscles are stronger than your back muscles, so use them! Below are some simple techniques that will help keep your spine healthy:
  • Always use your legs when lifting. Bend at the knees, not from the waist.
  • Squat down or kneel to pick up items off the floor.
  • Hold objects close to your body as you carry them.
  • While holding anything heavy in your arms, avoid twisting from the waist. Turn your entire body instead.
  • Avoid carrying your laundry basket on one hip. This creates poor posture.
  • Adjust your work areas, such as countertops or tables, to a height that allows you to stand up straight without leaning over.
  • Exhale and tighten your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles as you lift.
     
  • Getting up from floor: Roll onto your side first, and then push through your hands to come to an upright position. Come to a kneeling position, then place one foot forward on the floor. Place your hands on your forward knee. Use your legs and arms to push yourself to a standing position.
     
  • Getting out of bed: Roll onto your side first, and then push through your hands to come to an upright position. Swing legs over the side of the bed and sit up, then use legs and arms to come to a standing position.
     
  • Lifting items from the floor: Squat or kneel down, without bending from the waist. Keep the object as close to your body as possible when transferring. Exhale and contract your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles as you straighten your legs to stand up.
     
  • Bathing a child or pet: If using the bathtub, kneel next to it. If using the sink, stand up straight, bending over as little as possible. Place one foot on a stool or open sink cabinet in front of you will alleviate the stress on your lower back.
     
  • Doing laundry: Always squat or kneel to get clothes in and out of the dryer. Avoid twisting back and forth from machine to laundry basket. When folding clothes, sit with clothes in front of you, or have them on a surface that allows you to stand up straight.
The guidelines may seem like commonsense, but when you're busy (or just not thinking about it) it's easy to make mistakes here and there. Just because your back doesn't hurt now doesn't mean that you aren't causing some damage. So don't let your back cause you any more grief. Protect it now so you can enjoy all the experiences that life has to offer.

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Member Comments

  • I like the doing laundry tips!
  • I like the doing laundry tips!
  • I have facet arthopathy. ...very painful. I've had nerve blocks, but they didn't always work. Some of these are really great tips
  • Very nice and thank you.
  • Excellent advice. Thank you.
  • Unfortunately, I have had back problems since the early 1980's when I was involved in an auto accident and it broke my back. I have been following this information for years now
  • Thank you! I have back problems, and I'm now having to really how I lift and move.
  • Back surgery a few years back.....the main culprit was when I was about 17 yrs. old and a neighborhood idiot that had way too many beers thought he could lift me up and put me in another chair......he, I, and the chair went crashing down hard.....was never right after that day.....then come along in my 60's and had to have surgery of a ruptured disc
  • A lot of people don't know that back injuries can be cumulative rather than being caused by doing something wrong one time, so doing things that don't seem to hurt your back can be adding one more straw at a time to the camel's back until there are enough to break it (figuratively speaking). So take the advice given here even if not taking it doesn't seem to be causing a problem.

    Not twisting while holding weight is sound advice: if you want to squish something on the ground with your foot you instinctively put the ball of your foot on it and press down while twisting your foot back and forth. This is what you are doing to the soft disks between your vertebrae when you twist while holding weight.
  • Thank you, good tips. Sadly I can't squat (much) because of a chronic bursitis of the hip.
  • From someone with back problems, I appreciate the reminders. Thank you.
  • Very good reminders! It is so easy to make a wrong move and end up recuperating for weeks!
  • I have a bad back and a excruciating arthritic knee... so much of the advice for my back is impossible because of my knee, and vice versa. I'm adapting and using exercises and tips that don't hurt... and it's a huge challenge. However, I keep moving :)
  • These are very useful tips for people who are suffering from back pain badly. These exercises will be very beneficial for anyone who wants to get better by doing natural exercises. CureCrowd provides you data regarding your medical issues and possible treatments for the same.

    Visit https://www.curec
    rowd.com/ for more details.

About The Author

Sara Hambridge Sara Hambridge
Sara is a graduate of Saint Louis University's physical therapy program. She practices physical therapy and enjoys sand volleyball, yoga, and Pilates.