Whenever it comes to lifting items, there is one simple rule: when standing upright, never bend your waste to pick something up. Always try to keep your back straight and bend your knees and hips first, allowing your shoulder muscles to do most of the work instead of your back.
Improper lifting can often cause three types of muscle injuries:
- Disc Injury: The soft cushions (discs) in your vertebrae can be torn, ruptured, or shifted in position due to improper heavy lifting. The rings surrounding these discs can then bulge or rupture, causing them to press against a nerve and generate pain in the lower body and through your legs.
- Muscle Injury: Much stress is placed on the lower back while lifting. This can cause small twists or tears to occur that render your muscles temporarily less effective. Muscle injury is extremely common.
- Joint Injury: Joints in the spinal column can be strained or irritated, possibly causing lock up.
The following example, taken from www.webmd.com, walks through proper heavy lifting technique:
- Keep a wide base of support. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with one foot slightly ahead of the other (karate stance).
- Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only. If necessary, put one knee to the floor and your other knee in front of you, bent at a right angle (half kneeling).
- Maintain good posture. Look straight ahead, and keep your back straight, your chest out, and your shoulders back. This helps keep your upper back straight while maintaining a slight arch in your lower back.
- Slowly lift by straightening your hips and knees (not your back). Keep your back straight, and don't twist as you lift.
- Hold the load as close to your body as possible, at the level of your belly button.
- Use your feet to change direction, taking small steps.
- Lead with your hips as you change direction. Keep your shoulders in line with your hips as you move.
- Set down your load carefully, squatting with the knees and hips only.