Unless we have chronic back problems, most of us don’t think much about the importance of our backs. But did you know nearly 80% of people will experience some type of back injury during their lifetime? All is takes is one torn ligament, strain or sprain to cause serious discomfort, leave us unable to perform day-to-day tasks and result in lost work-time and costly medical bills.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million workers suffer back injuries each year, and back injuries account for one of every five workplace injuries or illnesses.
Most back pain arises from using your back improperly, so learning a few basic rules about lifting, posture and proper exercise can help you keep your back in good shape. Some important rules to lift by include:
- Keep your back straight when picking up, setting down or carrying objects.
- Don’t bend from the waist.
- Plan out your route in advance.
- Ask for help if an object is too heavy to lift.
Back injuries can be caused by attempting to lift an object that is simply too heavy for you to manage. Each pound of weight you lift puts over seven pounds of pressure on your lower back. That’s an important fact to remember so you aren’t tempted to lift something by yourself that requires extra help. Back injuries can also occur when someone is:
- Overtired, ill, or in too much of a hurry
- Overweight or otherwise in poor physical shape
- Trying to lift objects above chest height
- Twisting their body when lifting or carrying objects
- Not keeping their back straight when lifting an object
- Bending at the waist to pick up or set down an object
SAFE LIFTING TIPS
Here are 7 safe lifting tips:
- Bend your knees - do not bend from the waist – when picking up and setting down objects.
- Keep your back as straight as possible at all times.
- Get a firm footing before picking up a heavy object. Be sure your shoes have good traction. Then part your feet and put one foot slightly in front of the other. This will help give you good balance.
- Keep the object you are carrying close to your body. Don’t let objects bounce around.
- Don’t twist your body when carrying a heavy object.
- Don’t lift objects higher than chest high.
- If an object is out of reach, change your position or location. Or, pull the object toward you if you can easily do so.
Best practices include:
- Plan ahead. Make sure your path is clear, you have a clear line of vision, and you’ll have a clear place to set the object down.
- Check for wet spots or an otherwise slippery floor or ground, and anything else that could cause you to slip and fall.
- Use sturdy ladders or other safe platforms.
- If you use a back brace, be sure to check recommended procedures.
- Don’t push or pull too heavy of a load.
- Make sure you have a good grip on the object you are lifting. Grip gloves are often very helpful.
- Choose lightweight tools that will still do the job, such as lightweight rakes and shovels at home. These are less likely to cause strain on your back.
- Avoid prolonged heavy lifting. Take scheduled breaks to give your back a chance to rest.
- Don’t be in a hurry or become distracted when you are lifting.
- Use both hands when carrying a heavy object.
- Regularly exercise and stay in good physical shape.
- Lift with your legs, not your back.
- Ask for help if you think an object is too heavy to lift on your own.