Think about how a lower back injury can slow you down. It makes it difficult and uncomfortable to sleep, get up in the morning, get dressed, drive, do your job, play with your kids and get things done around the house.
A lower back injury pretty much screws up your entire day. If it affects job performance, a lower back injury can also take money out of your pocket.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million American workers injure their backs every year. Four out of five of these injuries were to the lower back, and three out of four of these happened while lifting.
We don’t know exactly what each of these people were trying to lift, or how heavy the loads were. We can say that most of those people most likely failed to use the most powerful muscle in the human body – the one between their ears.
The most important thing you can do before a lift, whether you’re moving boxes in the garage or loading heavy equipment into a truck, is think. Think about how you can make the lift easier on your back.
Remove obstacles in your path. If you’re lifting a container, make sure the weight is balanced and the contents are properly packed. Look for grips or handles. Determine whether or not you need gloves to prevent the load from slipping out of your hands and wrenching your back. Look for a dolly or hand truck to do the carrying for you.
Give the object a little push with your feet to see how easy it is to move, or squat down and try to tilt it with your arms. This will help you assess the weight of the load if the weight isn’t known.
There is no shame in asking for help if you think the load will be more than you can handle. A back belt will give you a little extra support, but it won’t necessarily prevent injury, so be careful.
Once you’ve used the muscle between your ears, you’re ready to use the muscles in your legs, back, shoulders and arms. Use these safe lifting techniques to minimize the risk of injury.
· Warm up, just like you would before a workout. Stretch out your back and legs for a few minutes.
· Position your body close to the load and spread your feet wide apart to ensure balance and create a stable base.
· Squat down, bending at the hips and knees instead of bending over at the waist.
· Get a solid grip on the load before you try to lift it.
· Use a smooth, fluid motion to gently lift the load instead of jerking and twisting. Keep your back straight and head up, tighten your abdominal muscles and lift with your legs until they’re straight.
· If you need to carry the load, keep it close to your body to minimize stress on your back.
· To put the object down, spread your feet and bend at the knees without bending over at the waist.
· Use a step ladder to place the load above shoulder height. Otherwise, keep your feet apart with one in front of the other to create balance and support your back.
Safe lifting is only possible if you use your head before and during the lift. If not, you risk serious and even permanent injury. Instead of trying to prove how strong you are, prove how smart you are.