LiveSmart: Remember Safe Lifting Techniques for Better Health

[This piece was written by Kathleen McDonnell, PT, with the Troy Outpatient Center (Massry Center) for physical therapy services.]

You’re reaching for that bag of groceries in the trunk of the car, you go to lift it and – OUCH! Your neck, your shoulder, your back … it could be any one of them or all of them, but all you know for certain is you are in pain.

Whether it is bag of groceries in the trunk, a box of books you’re looking to stow in the attic, or even a basket of laundry, lifting improperly can be hazardous to your health. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), lifting a 25-pound box from the floor requires about 700 pounds of back muscle force, even when you bend your knees and follow proper lifting technique.

So, how best to protect yourself from the ravages of everyday lifting? The first step is to make stretching part of your daily routine.

A general rule is to change your posture every fifteen minutes. Stretching improves flexibility and range of motion, makes muscles less vulnerable to injury and prevents the muscle soreness that occurs the day after a workout or helping your friend lug a couch on a move.

When it comes time to lift, OSHA offers these tips:

  • Try out the load first. If it is too bulky, heavy, or awkwardly sized, get assistance.
  • Avoid lifts that require stretching or bending to reach the load. Objects to be lifted should be close to the body and, ideally, at waist height.
  • If you must lift from the floor, bend your knees but keep your back straight.
  • Make sure you are facing the object head-on. Place one foot behind the object and the other foot beside it. Grip the object firmly with both hands.
  • Using your legs, stand slowly and carefully. Don’t jerk the load around.
  • Keep the object as close to your body as possible while lifting it. Keep your chin, elbows and arms tucked in tight.
  • Don’t twist or turn your spine while carrying the load.
  • Make sure your path is clear while carrying the object. Remove obstacles that could cause you to trip BEFORE you lift.
  • Do the same process in reverse when you set the object down.

Not following good lifting technique can cause painful and even permanent injuries. Protecting your posture is critical when lifting, every single time. If you remember to take it slow and easy and follow the proper technique, you should be good to go!

The Troy Outpatient Center (Massry Center), 147 Hoosick Street in Troy, offers a full range of outpatient physical therapy services to treat a variety of conditions, including neck and back pain, orthopedic/sports injuries, and post-surgical rehabilitation. For information or an appointment, call 518-268-5749.


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