Sometimes the things we know we shouldn’t do, we do anyways. We can do everything else right, but one wrong move can leave us injured. Even though I can eat right, exercise, stay hydrated and get rest, I am not invincible. It is usually the thing we least expect that throws our back out of place. It isn’t lifting the 50 pounds of salt or shoveling the snow. Those things we are prepared for. We know to be careful. It is carelessly and without a second thought bending over to put your pants on, lifting something small and insignificant in size, or in my case twisting to pick up my 10-month-old daughter as she reaches for me. She won’t understand if I tell her that I can’t lift her. Not to mention, I will probably lift and carry her a few dozen times before the day is over.
I’ve heard it hundreds of times. “I don’t know what I did.” “I didn’t do anything to cause this pain.” Or even better, “I just bent over to dry my hair (I was not lifting anything).” Bending, lifting, and twisting or a combination of those actions done improperly causes most back and neck injuries. These are normal every day movements that we should be able to perform. If done correctly, there should be no harm, something most of us instinctively know but may have forgotten. When my daughter is calling for me, in that moment I am not concentrating on body mechanics I am focused on her needs. However, the proper form of motion still matters and I am vulnerable to injury if I am not aware of what I am doing.
- Use your legs and bend the knees into a squat or lunge position when reaching for an object.
- Keep your back flat when bending. Do not curve, round, or slouch forward.
- Bend forward at the hips with your butt back and tighten your core muscles.
- Keep the object you are lifting close to your body.
- Don’t hold an object (even if it is light) for extended periods of time without breaks because your muscles will fatigue and can strain.
- Never lift and twist in the same motion. This movement has the highest potential for injury.
- Don’t lift an object that is too heavy for you without the help of someone else.
- Make multiple trips if you have lots of things to carry.
- Don’t overextend to reach for something.
- Place objects that you are going to need frequently (if you are a mom like me…items such as diapers and wipes) within easy reach and appropriate height for you to access them.
If you follow these tips you will minimize the strain on your body and avoid injuries. You still have to live your life. There will be moments when your hands are full (carrying kids and groceries), or you have to lift something awkward or heavy. Remember that bending, lifting, and twisting are normal motions. It isn’t the movement that we shouldn’t be doing it is the way that we do it that needs modified.