Proper Lifting Techniques
find out what you're missing.
Proper lifting techniques are emphasized to caregivers almost daily. The goal: avoid low back muscle pain and injury. However, caregivers are not
always dealing with the typical box or object on the floor that weighs less then they do. Cargivers are often dealing with patients who either
can't or won't assist in simple rolling in bed or more complex bed to wheelchair transfers.
No two patients ever weigh the same nor have the same
abilities. This leaves caregivers in a very difficult position (literally) when trying to keep themselves and the patient injury free.
Proper lifting techniques are critical but just as a healthy skeleton is useless without the muscles that move those bone, so are great lifting
techniques lacking when no mention of muscle strengthening or engagement is also taught.
You already know to:
- Plan ahead
- Keep your load close to your core
- Feet shoulder width apart
- Bend your knees
- Arch/lock your low back inward (bowed in)
- Eyes straight forward
- No twisting or bending
- Get help if you need it
- Wear a back support if you have one
These tips for proper lifting techniques can be carried out by most anyone however, without proper muscle contraction and engagement, maximum back
protection is lost.
What is proper muscle contraction and engagement?
Great question - and crucial. Let's revisit the tips we just read and talk about muscle activity in each:
- Plan ahead - not only for the task at hand but for your career at hand. Taking 30-60 minutes every day to play, strengthen, aerobisize
makes planning ahead become just part of your daily routine. This takes courage to simplify your life, opening up time to take care of YOU
so you can take care of THEM.
- Keep your load close to your core - almost impossible when moving and transferring patients but, when your core is strong, engaging your
core muscles gives you the protectivve edge when you can't pull your load (the patient) close. Caregivers know that keeping patient weight close
to you during a transfer is not reality. Strengthen your core, tighten your core to protect your back.
- Feet shoulder width apart - ever tried to move a sack of potatoes while balancing on a 6x6 block? There is no way you can set your
trunk and leg muscles to prepare to share the load that you are moving.
- Bend your knees - this locks your low back into the bowed in position AND allows your quads, hamstrings and glute muscles to engage and
contract. If you don't think so... stand straight with knees straight - time yourself - all day right? Now, bend your knees and keep keep
your back straight - time yourself - not so easy? Those were muscles you were taxing!
- Arch/lock your low back inward (bowed in) - Hand in hand with the previous tip.
- Eyes straight forward - keeping your eyes straight forward helps to keep your entire back muscles engaged and locked in during the lift.
Again, this is not always possible when caregivers and even physical therapists are moving or transfering patients. When you are not able to keep
your eyes forward, remember to keep your chest out, abdominals tight and low back locked in.
- No twisting or bending - assuming both feet remain planted can strain working muslces as they pull against a set base.
In home health care, again, this is not always reality. When you need to twist, do so on one leg so your set core and locked in back can remain
strong and engaged. If you need to bend, do so from the hips, not your locked in low back
- Get help if you need it - not always feasable for home health caregivers or physical therapists. This is why it is critical for you
to simplify your life and schedule and plug in play/fitness time.
- Wear a back support if you have one - back supports can help you feel what you need to contract your muscles against. Mixed feelings from
most everybody makes using back supports for proper lifting techniques and big question - or does it? If it helps you, use it!
As you can see proper lifting techniques must go hand in hand with muscle strengthening and engagement. Increasing your knowledge behind the move
can save your low back from injury, acute or chronic. It also goes without saying that strengthening comes in handy for all aspects of life!
Strength training for proper lifting techniques will give you job security since you'll be less likely to
be injured and quit. Your life will become more enjoyable and less painful as you enjoy the strength and vigor from even small strength gains!