How hard can it be to lift heavy things the right way? Well, as it turns out it is harder than you may think. It’s also easier than you may think to injure yourself if you do it the wrong way. One of the most common injuries associated with improper lifting is back pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, about 31 million Americans experience back pain at any given time. Many of those were injured from lifting improperly or lifting objects that were too heavy for their back to support. Here are a some tips to help you lift heavy loads properly and spare your back:

Plan before you lift

Getting totally organized before lifting something heavy will help prevent accidents and will make the job much easier. Choose the end destination for your item before you get started to minimize the risk of trips and falls.

  • Examine the object before you pick it up to see if you can move it by yourself, or if you will need help. You can sometimes slightly tip an object to help you determine its weight and center of balance. If it is too heavy for you, get someone to help or use a dolly.
  • Make sure to plan your route and make a clear path, deciding beforehand where you will put the load down. If someone is helping you, make sure to communicate your plan.

Make sure that you’re on solid footing

This will help prevent slipping while lifting, which could cause injury. You should also arrange the object so that it will not shift or move when you begin to lift it.

Slowly apply force

You could easily injure yourself by pulling hard or jerking suddenly. Apply force and lift a heavy object slowly and steadily.

Lift with Proper Technique

  • Keep the object close to you: You increase your strength and stability by keeping the item near your body.
  • Use your legs instead of your back.
  • Position your feet so they are about the width of your shoulders. Move forward taking small steps to give yourself a strong base for lifting.
  • Bend at the knees to get closer to the ground. Your legs tend to have greater strength than the muscles in your back. Direct your gaze upward as a reminder to lift with a straight back.
  • Tighten your abs: Contracting the muscles in your abdomen will help you to engage your core muscles. This allows you to maintain a safer position for your back, while giving you more strength and support for more effective lifting.
  • Stand straight and take small steps.

Have someone help you by leading the way

Moving a heavy object when you can’t see where you are going is dangerous. Avoid running into someone or something by having someone lead the way.

Don’t hurt yourself – ask for help

If an object feels too bulky or cumbersome to lift, don’t try. It’s just not worth a back injury to save yourself a couple of minutes or to show off. When the item weighs too much for you to lift safely, look for alternatives before attempting to move it. Ask someone to help you, or use equipment such as a forklift or a dolly.

Support your back

When lifting is a frequent activity in your day-to-day life, it becomes even more important to protect your body. You can improve your posture when lifting while also protecting yourself against injuries with a support belt for your back. Remember that many support belts offer different features for the best fit, including varying levels of breathability, flexibility, compression, and support stability. Speak with your doctor or choose one that will work best for your needs.

Avoid the following:

  • Bending your back to retrieve or lift an item, no matter how light it is.
  • Reaching above yourself to lift a heavy load. Call for help before attempting to move something that is up high.
  • Twisting or bending while carrying heavy objects. Always look forward when you are moving. If you must turn, stop and turn in short steps before continuing to walk.