What Most Safety Meetings Miss
Every safety meeting at every work place has used this phrase; “Lift with your legs, not your back.” Then most throw up a simple stick figure diagram that teaches you everything you need to know about lifting with your legs, right?
But wait! How did the second figure get the box off the ground? What’s the stick figure doing wrong in the first image? How do these black and white lines relate to how I lift? With “training” like this it’s no wonder teaching proper lifting techniques and other types of interventions, like back braces, have had no effect on the rates of back pain.
So, are proper lifting techniques meaningless? No, but our training methods could use some improvement. A study found that as worker engagement increased, accidents and injuries decreased. This means we need more than pictures and a few words to learn how to properly pick up heavy objects from the ground.
Proper Lifting Techniques
That’s right, techniques; as in more than one technique. There are many ways to lift properly and different objects require different ways to lift. The goal is to keep the object as close to your body as possible and move your hips back to avoid injuring weak muscles or massively increasing pressure in your low back. These techniques are attempting to prevent muscle sprains, tears, and disc herniations; not chronic, aching, annoying low back pain as evidence suggests that heavy lifting does not cause this type of pain.
We’re going to look at two different lifts; the squat and the hip-hinge. Both are great ways to lift properly and avoid the injures mentioned above. These lifts activate larger muscles and keep the lumbar spine from flexing to much.
Squats are usually what most people think of when they try to lift with their legs. Instead of bending the forward at the back, the lifter sinks their hips back and down to lower the upper body to a height conducive to lifting the object. While doing this, the back remains straight which lowers the strain and pressure being placed on the region.
Check out this video on proper squat form.
While we don’t want the knees to drift to far forward in this lift, they will come forward naturally. This can be difficult when lifting certain objects because the knees may get in the way. That’s where the next technique shines.
If we look back to the image of the proper lifting stick figure in the green circle, he probably didn’t squat lift that box. His knees would get in the way. That’s where the hip-hinge can be useful. Like the squat, the hip-hinge has the lifter move the hips back but not down. Do this by placing your weight on your heels before lifting the object. This helps us pick up objects without bumping our knees and can also be useful when you must reach to move heavy objects from a truck bed or table top. Again, the key is to utilize our larger, stronger muscles and reduce the pressure on the low back.
Check this one out to see a hip-hinge as an exercise.
Practice makes perfect
Like we mentioned before, just talking about good ways to lift isn’t enough. You need to actively practice them and get feedback from others. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you’re keeping your back straight or knees in the right place. A trainer, physical therapist, or doctor of chiropractic can help make sure you’re performing them correctly.
Squats and hip-hinges also make great weight training exercises. Working on these lifts in a controlled environment can strengthen your muscles to help prevent injury and make lifting objects at work easier. Just remember to have good form while exercising and make sure you talk with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.