Oh, My Aching Back…But it Doesn’t Have to

By Lisa Malowany, Program Manager and Trainer

Have you ever lifted something and then said, “Ouch that hurt!”?  If you have, it’s likely because you didn’t lift correctly. 

If you think about how a toddler lifts something, they typically squat down, take hold of the item, and bring it in close before they stand up, using perfect lifting techniques.  As we get older, we tend to develop lifting techniques that put our backs, necks, and shoulders at risk.  No matter what industry you work in, lifting correctly is imperative to avoid strain or injury.  You’ve likely hear the saying, “you’re as strong as an ox” but the reality is that our body isn’t built that strong, and in fact, the back, neck and shoulders are rather delicate body structures that needs to be protected. 

The good news is that there are things you can do to protect your body when lifting any item.  Here are a few things to remember:

  • Warm up.  Getting the body moving loosens up the muscles and gets them ready to move or lift things.  This isn’t just about your back, but your whole body – start with neck stretches and work your way down your body. 
  • Lift with your legs, not your back.  The muscles in your thighs are the strongest muscles in the body and were designed to lift and lower the body.   Your back, neck and shoulders were not designed to lift, so make sure you protect them by lifting with your legs.  
  • Carry the load close.  When carrying an item, hold it close to your body.    Your body will then move as one with the item reducing the chance that one structure within your body is holding the weight.
  • Make a plan for moving the item. If you’re moving something from one location to another, plan out your route.  How are you going to move the item?  How much of a weight will you be carrying?   
  • Use equipment to help you move items.  Carrying an item puts stress on your body.  Do you have a rolling cart, wheeled dolly, or a rolling chair available?  Consider using these to move items, decreasing the amount of time your body carries the weight, thus reducing the chance of strain.
  • Think twice and move once.  Back care starts with your brain.  When carrying an item, you need to think about any potential risks when moving items.  This helps you make the best decision for moving the item, reducing the chance of injury.  
  • Use good body posture.  Many people think that good body posture means standing ‘straight’.  However, standing ‘straight’ is not good body posture, it is about keeping the natural ‘S’ curve of the spine and keeping your trunk aligned with neck and head.  You also need to think about your sitting posture, as many people slouch when sitting or don’t have their arms at the proper height for typing.  Good body posture can help not only to avoid future injury, but protect any further deterioration done to the muscles from previous injuries.   

Ever heard of a back transplant?  A shoulder transplant?  A neck transplant?  Likely not, because they don’t exist.  There’s always the option of having surgery on these areas after sustaining an injury; however, most people who have undergone surgery will tell you that their body is never the same again.  It is imperative that you take care of these areas of your body by lifting correctly and avoiding injury. 

If you’re looking for more information on how to lift properly, consider taking TLR (Transferring, Lifting and Repositioning) training.  More information about SARC’s TLR training and upcoming sessions can be found at SARC Learning Central at http://www.sarclearningcentral.ca/programs/transferring-lifting-repositioning

Protecting your back starts with knowing how to lift everyday items and TLR covers this as well as how to safely move people with the use of transferring and lifting devices.  


Please Note: The included information is for reference only, and SARC and its Members, their employers, officers, and Directors assume and accept no liability for any consequences arising from the use, non-use, accuracy, or legal compliance of any of the information, tools, or resources provided.

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