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3 Serious Consequences of Poor Lifting Techniques and How You Can Avoid Them

22 February 2023

Lifting objects is a part of our everyday life. You lift objects of varying weights and sizes throughout the day. Some objects are light in weight, and others are heavy. Picking some objects is easier while picking others is difficult. A common assumption is lifting heavier objects requires a different technique and needs to practice caution. However, you'll be surprised to know that your lifting technique is equally critical, regardless of the weight of the object you're lifting. It's just that the load on your body when lifting heavier objects is higher, which is why you're suggested to be extra careful.

Improper lifting techniques can have serious consequences on your health and overall well-being, especially if lifting objects is something you've got to do all day, every day (like in the case of warehouse and logistics workers).

This blog post discusses the numerous consequences of improper lifting techniques and how to avoid them.

Consequences of Improper Lifting Techniques

Improper lifting techniques are one of the leading causes of workplace injuries. All it takes is one wrong move, and you end up with severe back pain and in worst cases, serious injuries that can confine you to bed. Not many people consider their lifting technique because they don't know what harm it can do.

Below are some of the major consequences of improper lifting techniques:

Strained Muscles and Sprained Ligaments

The most common consequence of improper lifting techniques is strained muscles and sprained ligaments. Your muscles and ligaments can get strained due to overuse during repetitive or prolonged movements of the muscles and tendons. Some of the common risks that are highly likely to strain your muscles and ligaments include curving the lower back when lifting objects, having a weak back that's highly susceptible to injury, having weak abdominal muscles, being overweight, or having tight hamstrings. The signs that indicate that you've strained your muscles due to the wrong lifting technique include muscle cramps, difficulty walking, pain when you bend, and extreme discomfort when you stand for long hours.

Abdominal Hernias

Improper lifting techniques can harm you in more ways than you know. Another consequence of improper lifting techniques is an abdominal hernia. It's a condition in which the contents of the body cavity bulge out from a specific area. The contents are usually contained within an area, usually the intestines. You're at a high risk of developing an abdominal hernia if you've got weak abdominal muscles and lift heavy objects. Abdominal hernias are more common in men with prostate-related problems or fluid displacement within the abdomen. Abdominal hernias are usually associated with nausea, constipation, fever, weakness, and excruciating abdominal pain.

Herniated Lumbar Vertebral Disks

One of the most common and painful consequences of improper lifting techniques is herniated lumbar disks. Vertebral disks are soft jelly-like substances that are present between each vertebra of the spine. These disks absorb shock from compression and movement and protect the spine from injuries. Improper lifting techniques put you at risk of having your vertebral disks to get displaced or damaged. The disks present in the lumbar region (lower back) are at the highest risk of slipping and injury during lifting because that's the region of the back most people bend at to lift objects from the floor. A herniated or slipped lumbar disk is characterized by pain that seems to travel between the buttocks and leg on one side, numbness, and muscle spasms. This condition is extremely painful and can impair your ability to move at all.

How to Avoid Consequences of Poor Lifting Techniques

You need to be extremely cautious about your posture and lifting ergonomics. Most people bend at their waist to lift an object from the floor, and that's exactly what they do wrong!

Let's look at the correct lifting technique in detail below:

Assess the Situation and Plan

If you've got to lift an object from the floor, don't just jump into the task immediately. Assess the situation and plan the lift. Before you lift the object, see if there are any ramps, stairwells, doors, or obstacles around. Imagine having a heavy object in your hands and going here and there to find the door or tripping over an obstacle. The best practice is to walk through the entire route that you'll be walking with the object before lifting it so that you know exactly how long it is, how many stairs or steps come in the way, and what you need to look out for. You should know the exact spot where you'll put the object so that you don't have to put it down and lift it again. Also, weigh the object. If it's heavier than 50 pounds, ask someone to help you lift it or use a pushcart or hand truck if it's available.

The biggest reason people who lift objects experience back pain or injuries is that they end up lifting the object for longer than they should and not knowing where to put them exactly, which results in them lifting and putting down the object repeatedly.

Warm Up Before Lifting

As we said earlier, you shouldn't lift the object immediately. After you've assessed the situation and planned your lift, warm your body up to prepare it for the lift. Exposing your body to load without preparing it increases the risk of injury by several folds. Do some warm-up exercises and stretches particularly stretches that work up your quadriceps, hamstrings, triceps, and lower back muscles – all the muscles that'll be engaged during lifting. Doing jumping jacks or a quick run will also get your blood flowing and prepare your muscles to bear the load.

Follow Lifting Ergonomics

The most common lifting posture is bending at the waist to lift an object off the ground. Well, that's wrong. To ensure safe lifting, you must follow the correct lifting ergonomics. Move as close to the object as possible. The closer you're to the object at the time of lifting, the lesser pressure will be on your spine. Bend at your knees and keep your body straight and upright so that you lift the object with your legs and not with your back. Once you've gripped the object, look up while keeping your shoulders and back upright. Your back should be only slightly arched. Always remember – no matter how heavy the object is, never jerk your body when you're lifting. Jerking and twisting motions can strain your back.

The grip on the object should be firm so that you don't drop it and end up hurting yourself. The handholds of the box should fit your fingers comfortably. If they're digging into your palms, know that you aren't holding it right. Take small steps as you're carrying the object. Your shoulders must be aligned with your hips all the time. Use your hips to hips as you change directions. The object should be close to your body, and your elbows must be at your sides. Ideally, the object should be within the power zone, which is the area between your mid-thigh and mid-chest. Keeping the object in this region will allow you to lift the most weight with the least effort.

Set Down the Object Carefully

Once you've reached your destination, set down the object carefully. Just like you shouldn't bend at your waist while lifting, you shouldn't while setting the object down too. Lower your legs and bend your knees while keeping the object close to your body as you set it down. Tighten your stomach muscles and keep your head high while lowering the object.

What You Shouldn't Do When Lifting Objects

Below is a list of some things that you shouldn't do when you're lifting objects:

Don't twist or turn your body while lifting the object

If the object is too large or too heavy for you, don't lift it alone

Don't lift the object too high

Don't lift an object that's large enough to obstruct your view

Don't rush

What Can You Do to Get Relief from Back Pain Due to Improper Lifting Techniques

If your back hurts from lifting heavy objects incorrectly, try the following for relief:

Avoid lifting objects for some time. Use pushcarts or hand trucks if they're available. Taking a few days off work to rest is also a good idea.

Use an ergonomic chair with lumbar support to sit at work when you aren't lifting objects. An ergonomic chair like Back Support Ergonomic Office Chair OC13 will provide you superior back support and take pressure off your back while you relax.

Closing Word

Most workplace accidents occur due to poor lifting techniques. You may get badly injured if you aren't careful and cautious about lifting ergonomics. Following the correct lifting techniques will reduce the risk of injuries and ensure your health and safety.