Lifting and Material Handling
How to Protect Your Back
To protect your back when lifting or lowering, remember two things:
1. Keep the load close to your body throughout the lift:
If the item is in an awkward location, move your body closer to the load by kneeling. If the item is on the floor, get on one knee, hoist the item to your knee, get close and then lift.
2. Maintain your back's natural curves, especially the arch in your lower back:
Use the golfer's lift for lightweight, hard to reach items. Look up while you lift to keep the curves in your back.
Information About the Spine
The spine is made up of 24 vertebrae (bones) and discs that are in between the vertebrae. The vertebrae provide support and protect your spinal cord as it travels down your back. The discs absorb the pressure that movement places on the body. The spine forms three curves, which are shown below. These curves help your back absorb forces to reduce stress on the spine.
The back muscles located along the spine are in their strongest position when the three curves are maintained. When you work without keeping the curves (due to poor posture or awkward movements), your muscles can't support the spine as well and the compression on the discs is uneven. This increases your risk of back injury, so be sure to maintain the curves in your back when lifting or lowering an object!
More force is placed on the spine when a person lifts with the back (curves are not maintained) instead of lifting with their legs (maintaining the back's curves). When lifting a 10 lb. box, approximately 30 lbs of force are placed on the spine when the lift is performed properly. With improper technique (lifting with the back instead of the legs), the force placed on the spine is doubled. To reduce your risk of back injury, it's important to minimize the amount of force placed on the spine, so be aware of your posture when lifting!