Moving safely part two: how to protect your spine during heavy lifting

Welcome to the second segment of manual handling 101! Last blog was a crash course in what can happen to our spine if we use poor posture and technique during heavy lifting, so today is all about HOW to lift safely.

Recap on our previous blog:

A quick note on posture

Posture is the fundamental basis for safe manual handling. Knowing optimal postures and how to maintain them will assist with preventing injury by ensuring the right muscles are doing the work.

Standing posture:

Seated posture:

How to lift safely

  1. Adopt a wide stance
  2. Keep load close to body
  3. Keep back straight and chest up
  4. Hinge at hips and bend your knees – like a squat
  5. Lift load using your legs (weight through your heels)
  6. Keep back ‘straight’ (i.e. maintain natural curves) throughout the lifting phase
  7. Keep core muscles active – check out this blog on how to activate your core

The same principles apply for lowering a load.

The farther the load is from your centre of gravity (i.e. around your belly button), the more the load is placed upon your spine and core.

What to avoid when lifting/lowering

Awareness is key

Being mindful of HOW you are lifting a heavy load is the first step to safety. Many of us are often in a hurry and don’t think about how we move our bodies, and most of the time this is okay if we are not under additional load. However, if we are lifting / lowering / pushing or pulling against a load, these situations are where injuries can occur. Before performing any activity under load (e.g. lifting groceries, mowing the lawn, vacuuming under a bed), remember to think through these few points to protect your spine:

  1. Are my feet wide enough to give me a supportive stance?

 Hip width or greater is recommended.

  1. Am I close to the load and not twisting my back?

Keep load close to body and avoid twisting.

  1. Am I following the optimal posture principles?
  2. Can I maintain a straight back and bend my knees enough for this lift?
  3. Is my core active?

Refer back to the last series of blogs on how to do this.

 

If no to any of the above, correct if able or can this lift be done in a safer way?

Following these principles will give you the best chance to protect your spine under load.

As always, keep safe, wash your hands and keep moving!

Sophie