Musculoskeletal injuries occur every day when people lift heavy or awkward objects without concentrating on how they are lifting. Even a so-called simple task of lifting a box from the ground to place it on a counter-top or shelf can cause muscle and back strain if not done correctly.
The simple rule to remember when lifting: never bend from your waist when attempting to pick something up. Keep your back straight and crouch first by bending at the knees or hips, depending on where the item is that you are attempting to lift. This will allow your arm and shoulder muscles (not your back) to do the brunt of the work.
Back injuries from improper lifting techniques generally lead to three kinds of injuries: those that are to the muscles, those that are to the discs and those that are to the joints. Here is a brief synopsis of those types of injuries:
* Muscle injury - If you change your position during a lift, you place a lot of stress on your lower back muscles. This can easily strain and injure, usually in the form of a small twist or tear, a muscle or group of muscles. Muscle strain is a very common form of back injury. A muscle pull or strain is often painful and can disable key body parts such as your back, hips, shoulders, neck and knees.
* Disc injury - Improper lifting can cause the soft cushions between your vertebrae, called discs, to tear, rupture or shift out of position. Such an injury can cause the affected disc to press against a nerve, causing pain and numbness to radiate down into your buttocks and/or leg.
* Joint injury - You may be surprised to know there are numerous joints in your spinal column connecting all of the various bony structures. A bad lift can cause excessive strain on these joints, irritating tissue within them and, in some cases, causing them to "lock up".
Here are some simple lifting techniques to help you avoid injuring yourself:
* Make sure you hae a place to put the object you have lifted. Do not try to figure this out while holding the object.
* Position your body close to, and in front of, the object. Your feet should be flat on the floor about shoulder-width apart. If you need to turn during the lift, use your feet to pivot.
* Keep your elbows bent while carrying an object.
* Your leg muscles, not those in your back, should be the ones providing the power during your motion to stand erect.
* Keep your chest forward and bend slightly at your hips, not at your lower back or knees. Keep your shoulders in line with your hips to help avoid twisting motions. When lifting, push your chest out, pointing forward.
* Lead with you hips, not your shoulders - but keep your shoulders in line with your hips. If you need to change direction, move your hips first so that your shoulders will automatically move in unison with your hips.
* Don't lift an object that is obviously too heavy. Test the weight of the object by pushing it with your foot. If it is very difficult or impossible to push with your foot, it is likely that the object is more than your muscles can handle.