Poor Santa! So many presents; so little time. And that sack, and those trees! They weigh a ton. What does that mean for Santa and his millions of helpers? Back strain, pulled ligaments, dislocated discs. Yes, for many people, the holiday season can be a real pain. According to Dr. Kornel, it’s important to protect your spine from injury by adhering to the following eight tips on lifting properly (adapted from about.com):
Plan ahead before lifting. Know what ‘s involved so you don’t make awkward movements while hoisting something heavy. Clear a path, and if lifting a heavy object with another person, make sure both of you agree on the plan ahead of time.
Lift object close to your body. You will have a stronger, stabler, and safer lift if you hold the object close to your body rather than at the end of your reach. Make sure you have a firm hold on the object you are lifting, and keep it balanced close to your body.
Keep your feet shoulder width apart. A solid base of support is important while lifting. Holding your feet too close together will cause instability, but too far apart will hinder movement. Keep the feet about shoulder width apart and take short steps.
Bend your knees and keep your back straight. Practice the lifting motion before you lift the object, and think about your motion before you lift. Focus on keeping you spine straight–raise and lower to the ground by bending your knees.
Tighten your stomach muscles. Tightening your abdominal muscles will hold your back in a good lifting position and will help prevent excessive force on the spine. (Dr. Kornel also recommends strengthening your core to protect your back. Your abdominals are part of core muscles that are meant to stabilize your body and keep your spine straight and healthy.)
Lift with your legs. Your legs are many times stronger than your back muscles, so let your strength work in your favor. Again, lower to the ground by bending your knees, not your back. Keep your eyes focused upwards which will help to keep your back straight.
If you’re straining, get help. If an object is too heavy or awkward in shape, make sure you have someone around who can help you.
Wear a belt or back support. If you are lifting heavy objects as part of your job or often at home, a back belt can help you maintain a better lifting posture.