Back injury is best avoided at all costs. After the first time you have
injured your back, it becomes more vulnerable to future injury. A back injury
can alter your entire quality of life and possibly your livelihood, especially
if it returns or becomes chronic.
Poor lifting technique can
injure your back in various ways:
Muscle or ligament strain—or tiny tears in the
muscle or ligament—commonly results from a combination of poor body mechanics
and too much of a burden on your back muscles.
Spinal disc injury is often caused by forward bending
of the spine and poor lifting technique. A spinal disc that is squeezed by the
vertebrae above and below it can bulge or break open (herniated disc), causing back and leg pain and numbness (sciatica) and
sometimes bowel and bladder problems.
become damaged during awkward lifting.
Test Your Knowledge
Poor lifting technique can cause an injury to the
muscle, spinal discs, or bone.
Keep a wide base of support. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, with one foot
slightly ahead of the other (karate stance).
Squat down, bending at the hips and knees only. If needed,
put one knee to the floor and your other knee in front of you, bent at a right
angle (half kneeling).
Maintain good posture. Look straight ahead, and keep your back straight, your chest
out, and your shoulders back. This helps keep your upper back straight while
maintaining a slight arch in your lower back.
Slowly lift by straightening your hips and knees (not your
back). Keep your back straight, and don't twist as you lift.
Hold the load as close to your body as possible, at the level
of your belly button.
Use your feet to
change direction, taking small steps.
Lead with your hips as you change direction. Keep your shoulders in line with your
hips as you move.
Set down your load
carefully, squatting with the knees and hips only.
Test Your Knowledge
Safe lifting is intuitive—we do it without thinking
If you want to learn more, the following resources are available:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
6300 North River Road
Rosemont, IL 60018-4262
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS)
provides information and education to raise the public's awareness of
musculoskeletal conditions, with an emphasis on preventive measures. The AAOS
website contains information on orthopedic conditions and treatments, injury
prevention, and wellness and exercise.
American Academy of Physical Medicine and
9700 West Bryn Mawr Avenue
Rosemont, IL 60018-5701
The American Academy of Physical Medicine and
Rehabilitation (AAPMR) is the medical society for the specialty of physical
medicine and rehabilitation. The website includes a directory of member
PM&R physicians (physiatrists) that can be searched by last name, location,
or telephone number.
American Physical Therapy
1111 North Fairfax Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-1488
1-800-999-APTA (1-800-999-2782) (703) 684-2782
The American Physical Therapy Association is a national
organization representing nearly 70,000 physical therapists, physical therapist
assistants, and students. Its goal is to foster advancements in physical
therapist education, practice, and research. The APTA also provides information
and education to the public about physical therapy and how it is used to treat
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.