A correct lifting technique is essential to reduce the chances of getting back pain. The most commonly taught way of lifting is bending the legs to take the pressure off the back. Is this the correct way to lift an object? If so, why is it considered to be the gold standard of lifting?
Each joint in the spine is designed to take a specific load. When all of the joints in the spine work together the loads add up to make the maximum that the spine can take. The best lifting technique is one that shares the load throughout the individual joints and no particular joint in the spine is overloaded. To find out the best lifting technique we have look at each technique individually:
- When lifting with the legs straight the spine has to flex to full range of motion. This puts huge loads through the lower part of the spine (lumbar spine). The discs and joints in the back are likely to be overloaded and this may cause pain immediately or cause pain after repeated lifting.
- The nature of lifting with the legs bent means that the spine does not have to flex to its full range of motion. This allows some of the load that is lifted to be transferred through the muscles in the legs. This is a huge improvement on lifting with your legs straight. There is still a problem with lifting with the legs bent though. It is quite common with this technique to look towards the ground during the lift. This action means that the spine is being flexed so when lifting the spine then has to be extended putting large loads through the spine still.
Legs bent and spine neutral
- This has all the advantages of lifting with the legs bent but without the final extension motion. When lifting with the knees bent it is important to be looking straight ahead and lift in one fluid motion. With this in mind the legs will be taking most of the brunt and the spine will be taking a small percentage of the overall load. This is likely to mean that the joints in the spine are not overloaded and this greatly decreases the chances of getting back pain.
In conclusion, having your legs bent when lifting is the best way to lift but it is important to ensure that the spine is in a neutral position. The best way to do this is to avoid looking down at the object you are picking up. This way fewer loads will be taken through the spine and it will greatly reduce the chances of experiencing back pain during the lifting motion or in the future after repeated lifting episodes.