Every year, millions of people suffer back pain or related problems which, as well as being sore, can prevent them going to work or living life normally. And you can be sure that in a lot of cases, lifting a heavy weight in the wrong way has played a part in that injury and having you seeking emergency first aid. Which is daft really, because by following some simple straightforward tips, you can make sure you lift things correctly and safely.
1. Test the weight
Not many of us are accustomed to heavy lifting on a day-to-day basis. And not everyone is blessed with bulging biceps or a barrel chest! So, first thing’s first, whether at home or at work, if you are going to attempt to lift something, work out how heavy it is – for example, if it’s a box use your feet to try and move it along the floor (even small boxes can be deceptively heavy). Never ever get over-confident, take a chance and overdo it – it’s simply not worth the pain and agony of a badly pulled or torn muscle or, worse still, a slipped disc. There’s no shame in asking for help for a heavy lift.
2. Is it an easy load?
If you think you can realistically tackle the lift, the next step is to assess the load. Is it neatly packed and secure/a simple shape? Or is it bulky and awkward with moving parts, making it tricky to grip? If it’s the latter, you need to make the load as secure as possible before even attempting to lift it. The last thing you want is to have an item fall out and trip you up or cause you to fall and have an injury.
3. Get close to the load
Next, consider where the load is and how easy it is to reach. If it is on the floor in front of you, then fine. But you should, at all costs, avoid over-reaching to pick up a load, reaching up above your head (without a ladder, this could be disastrous) or arching your back. Get as close as you can to the load. And plan in advance for your lift – make sure there’s enough room for your chosen route.
4. Lift slowly – using legs and arms
Now, one of the fundamental rules of lifting: never bend over and put extra strain on your back. Bend the legs so you’re facing the item and – using slow movements, take the strain with your arms and legs. They should be doing the work, not your back. Then, when lifting, try to avoid jerking or twisting; this only increases the potential for injury. If at any point you feel a twinge or pain of any kind, put the item down. Continuing could lead to you doing yourself a serious injury.
Lastly, remember that if you’re not in great physical shape, you should never attempt a lift (even if you think it’s a relatively easy one). Your muscles need to be able to take the strain – full stop.
Colin Hargreaves works in sports fitness and always has a sports first aid kits at hand and in all the gyms, he works in.