If you are old enough, you may remember the TV advertisement from the 80s with the slogan “don’t use your back like a crane!” Well, some of the message was good but it is, of course, now truly outdated. Believe it or not, bed rest was the treatment of choice for a bad back not that long ago. There are some useful things that you can do to protect your back, especially with respect to lifting. By the way, when I refer to your back, I am really meaning your lower back, the area between your ribs and your buttocks.
Top tips for lifting
• Lift when you are well warmed up. Jumping out of bed and trying to lift first thing would be the worst time for your back. Give the muscles time to warm up and get ready for action.
• Keep your back straight as much as possible and bend your knees. Use your thigh muscles to do the lifting as they are many times stronger than your back muscles.
• Lift straight – step with your feet to move something while lifting, instead of twisting your back. Again, the legs take the weight, not your back. For example, if you are lifting a heavy box from in front of you to your left side, turn to the left with your feet by stepping this way, not by twisting your back. It may seem slower and a waste of time, but that simple action may save you days of agony.
• Don’t lift more than you can easily manage. Get help or use a machine to help. Again, the temptation to just “quickly lift” on your own can result in a long time of suffering. Also remember that what you may have been able to lift 20 years ago may be quite different now (especially if you are out of practice).
• Engage your core muscles when you lift. To understand what this means and how to do it, you will need to get some help from someone qualified such as a physio, personal trainer or Pilates teacher.
But, if you do feel a tweak after lifting
• Look for a way to very gently stretch that part of your back out.
• Try soaking in a hot bath to help soften any overloaded muscles.
• Use some arnica.
Re-read the first part of this article … you have probably missed something. If it doesn’t settle after a few days, get a health professional to check your back. If you really hurt yourself lifting, try ice for 10 minutes every hour. This can be alternated with heat application for 10 minutes as well. If one application, of heat or cold, seems more beneficial then you can just use that method. Make an appointment with a health professional as soon as possible to be shown the best way to manage what is going on and to get some lifting advice.
Eugene Sims, Warkworth Natural Therapies