4 steps to prevent back strain

A big shipment came in and your boss asks you to help unload the truck. Or maybe the garage sale is over and you’re packing up boxes to take to your local charity. You’re feeling good until you pick up a box and a sudden, sharp pain shoots through your lower back.

Poor lifting techniques can cause short-term pain or long-term injury. When lifting at home or on the job, protect yourself by following some good advice:

1. Strengthen your core
Those six-pack abs are more than cosmetic. If you are prone to back injuries, chances are your core is what needs attention. The muscles in your abdomen and pelvis play a crucial role in supporting your spine. Strengthening your core and tightening it when preparing to lift will help prevent injury.

2. Bend at the knees
We’ve all heard it before, so why don’t we heed the advice?! When picking something up, bend your knees and hips to squat down to the object, keeping your feet shoulder-width apart. As you stand, hug the item close to your body, using the muscles in your legs, hips, and buttocks to do the work. Or, kneel down proposal-style and lift the box onto your bended knee. Then, use your leg muscles to stand.

3. Keep the natural curve in your back
The traditional advice is to lift with your back straight, but experts today are more likely to tell you to “keep the natural curve in your back.” The goal is to maintain a proper spine position without hunching your shoulders, curving your back outward, or twisting when lifting.

4. Breathe
Avoid holding your breath, as that can lead to a dangerous increase in blood pressure. Instead, take a deep breath and exhale while you lift.

In addition to practicing proper lifting techniques, the most important advice is to know your limits. Seek help when necessary. Your back will thank you later.