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Few things are more painful than a serious back injury. Even a minor strain can be debilitating. And many back injuries happen because of improper lifting techniques. When you know how to lift heavy objects properly, you can avoid back injuries and stay healthy and pain-free. Let’s take a look at five recommendations for doing just that:

Bend at your hips, not your back.

You’ve probably heard the recommendation to bend at your knees when lifting a heavy object. This is good advice but take it a step further to further minimize the risk of injury. Bend at your hips as well, while focusing on keeping your entire back straight and aligned throughout the lift. Square your feet, bend at the knees and hips, and keep your back straight without twisting side to side. That’s the magic formula!

Keep your chest forward.

When you bend at the hips and keep your chest forward, it keeps your back in proper alignment with good posture. This minimizes the chance of a strain or muscle pull. With this technique, the muscles in your legs and hips produce the power for lifting something heavy, not your back.

Keep the object close to your body.

Holding a heavy object out in front of you, with your arms outstretched, is an easy way to cause a back injury. Keeping the object as close to your chest — and your center of gravity — as possible is much easier on your back. And if you can’t hold the object close to you because it’s too heavy or bulky, it’s not a good idea to try and lift it yourself. Ask for help from another person, or multiple people if necessary.

Try the golfer’s lift.

Picture a golfer leaning down to pluck a golf ball off the green. They’ll keep their legs straight, extending one backward to act as a counterbalance, while reaching down to grab the ball below them. This is a useful technique when you’re picking up a light or small object from the ground, perhaps from a bin sitting on the floor. The golfer’s lift is NOT to be used with heavy objects, however.

Place objects using momentum.

Once you’ve picked up a heavy object, you have to set it down again eventually. Using momentum to do so is a good way to save yourself from a back injury, especially if you need to place the object above you. Get a head start and use your natural momentum to “push” the object into place, rather than trying to lift it up from a dead stop.

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