The lower back is prone to injury for a variety of reasons. It has a complicated and delicate structure made up of vertebrae, disks, tendons, ligaments, and muscle. It has little structural support yet supports about half the weight of the human male.
When lifting objects that you can’t straddle, the weight of both the object and upper body are cantilevered off the lower back. This means that leverage works against the lower back producing a lot of strain. In addition, people often lift with a jerking motion and may also twist the back while lifting. Both of these motions produce yet more strain. It’s not surprising then, that back injuries account for 20% of workplace injuries in the United States.
Prevent injury to your lower back by following these seven suggestions in the workplace:
- Get assistance for heavy loads. Even if you have the strength, ask for help when lifting heavy loads. If mechanical lifting devices such as forklifts, dollies, hoists, and overhead cranes are available, use them.
- Avoid repeated lifting of heavy loads. Muscle fatigue from frequent heavy lifting sets the stage for injury. Mix up your work routine with easier tasks.
- Use smooth lifting motions. Jerking motions allow you to use momentum to make lifting easier for your muscles. However, this subjects the lower back to greater stress loading. Instead, lift slowly and smoothly.
- Don’t twist when lifting. Lift the load straight up. If you need to set it down to the side, don’t twist with your back. Step to the side with your feet.
- Straddle the load when possible. If you can straddle the load, then do so and lift with your legs while keeping your back straight.
- Lift the load close to your body. Get your feet close to the load before lifting. Then keep it close to your body as you lift. This will reduce the cantilever effect mentioned previously.
- Stay physically fit. Strong leg and body core muscles prevent back injuries. On the other hand, poor physical fitness, and excess body weight above the waist places greater strain on the lower back.