Q: My husband lifts heavy packages at his job. How can he avoid back injury? - B.N., Grovetown
A: Some 6 million Americans each year seek treatment for back pain, usually caused by lifting or moving heavy items.
Proper lifting can help prevent many back injuries, as can proper stretching. Being in good shape can help you avoid muscle strains of all types, including back strain and injury.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons suggests that you first evaluate the job to be done. Don't rush and pick up a heavy object haphazardly. Instead, visualize the path you will take and how you will get from start to finish. Don't allow too much space between yourself and the object. In fact, stand close to the object with your feet spread shoulder distance apart. This will provide you with better balance and will help take some of the strain off the muscles of the back.
Remember to bend your knees as you lift or move a heavy object. Don't bend over at the waist to pick something up. Instead, squat down and then rise up slowly. Keep your back straight and don't lock your knees in a straight position as you rise.
After you lift the package, keep it at your chest. Don't try to elevate heavy objects over your head. You risk back injury as well as injury to the shoulders. Hold the item close to your body as you transport it to another location. Don't twist or turn your body while you are moving a heavy object.
Turn your entire body in the direction you wish to take the object. It's always best to clear your pathway before moving an object so you will not have to maneuver around objects or people. If the object is especially heavy or difficult to move, ask for help. Two or three people can get the job done efficiently and with less strain on your own back muscles.
The only thing injured may be your pride, but that injury is much more likely to heal quickly!
You may be at risk for back injury before you even begin to move heavy objects. If you are overweight or smoke, you are already placing a strain on your body. If your job requires regular heavy lifting, you may also be at risk for serious back injury. If you do not exercise regularly or if you lift recklessly you may also be at risk.
Back injuries, like other ailments, can come back to haunt you. Injuries that do not completely heal are the most troublesome variety as they can cause problems for the rest of your life. To avoid such problems, remember to use proper lifting techniques. Changes in lifestyle such as weight control, smoking cessation, and regular exercise can help you avoid injury and can contribute to improved overall wellness.
If you have a question or would like more information, please write to Shirley McIntosh, Resource Center on Aging, 2803 Wrightsboro Road, Suite 51, Augusta, GA 30909.