One of the main reasons folks come in to our office is due to low back pain and all too often their story begins with lifting something up. For simplicity we like to divide these lifting problems in to two different categories: correct body function and correct lifting principles.
When muscular balance is lost, picking up something as light as a pen can cause the back to “slip out.” This can happen as the person is bending over before they even reach the object. This problem has nothing to due with what they are picking up and is called incorrect body function. It is an accident waiting to happen. When the body is not balanced properly it is susceptible to injury from ordinary lifting.
An example of this is having very weak lower back muscles or worse having one side of your low back slightly weaker than the other causing you to slightly twist to the strong side as you stand back up. This leaves your back vulnerable to injury. A vertebra can be displaced, the disc between the vertebrae can begin to bulge out, or a muscle or ligament can become irritated.
Muscle imbalance is pretty easy to observe once you know what to look for. There are usually significant postural deviations if an individual has had a muscular imbalance for a long time. Signs can include sway back, flat feet, knock-knees, a protruding abdomen or a hip higher than the other to name a few.
Factors predisposing a lifting injury ideally should be corrected before the injury occurs. If you suspect any postural deviations you should consult your chiropractor. Proper management may include the adjustment of your spine possibly followed by complementary alternative care.
On the other side of the pendulum, incorrect lifting involves a person who may have a healthy back but is using improper form. This is what we call a true lifting injury. Simply broken down correct lifting or any type of ergonomic training involves postures and principles which use the body to its best advantage.
Lifting injuries often occur while ‘in a hurry’ and folks often remember questioning whether then can handle lifting that alone before they hurt themselves. Accidents are not always unavoidable but here are some tips to keep injuries to a minimum.
- Always lift in a vertical direction.
- When lifting anything from a table, always bring it as close to the edge as possible before lifting.
- Always keep the object you are lifting close to your body.
- Have your muscles partially flexed (contracted) when lifting an object.
- Never try to lift a heavy object by yourself.
- Visualize sticking your stomach out while lifting. (this protects the discs in you low back)
- Stand with your knees shoulder length apart.
- If your shoulders are facing in a different direction than your feet you are twisting your back, this is a venerable position for your back.
- Always bend at the knees.
- Use a dolly, wheelbarrow or a bar for leverage whenever possible.
If you suspect you have had an injury lifting something it’s best to see your chiropractor as soon as possible. In the mean time try applying an ice pack to reduce inflammation and minimize soreness. Ice should be used for about 20 minutes at a time. Remember always to follow correct technique when lifting, and to take care of yourself if you get injured.