Physical Therapist, Banner Baywood Medical Center
Question: What are some common injuries associated with poor lifting habits and what can I do to avoid injuring myself even with small tasks around the house or at the office?
Answer: Injuries to the low back are often associated with poor lifting habits, both at home and at work. These injuries may be a strain or a sprain of the muscles or ligaments. A more serious cause of back pain may stem from a herniated or degenerative disk.
To avoid injuries of the low back, stand and sit with good posture. Your back has a natural curve, similar to an “S” curve, starting from your neck to your low back. Proper posture maintains this curvature of your back. Stand or sit without slouching, with your stomach in, your shoulders back, and your head in a straight position. Poor posture stretches and weakens the muscles that support your spine, making you more susceptible to injuries. Proper posture also extends to your position during sleep. Avoid sleeping on your stomach. Rather, sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees or on your back with a pillow under your knees.
Computer monitors should be 18-24 inches in front of you. Your eyes should be level with the top third of the computer screen. The chair should allow your feet to rest on the floor, and your knees and hips bent at 90 degrees. The keyboard height should allow your elbows to be bent at 90 degrees and your wrists slightly bent. Use a head set for phones so you are not bending your neck to one side.
Another strategy to decrease injuries is to use proper body mechanics during your activities. There are numerous safe strategies for completing home or work tasks using good body mechanics. Generally, pace yourself, break down heavy loads, ask for help, use smooth and slow movements, keep objects close to your body, and lift with your legs and not with your back. Most importantly, do not twist your back when you are lifting objects. If you have a project that requires repetitive lifting, wait until the afternoon to start the project due to increased fluid pressure in the disc in the mornings.
In order to maintain proper posture and utilize good body mechanics, your body should be in good physical fitness. Aerobic exercise, strengthening, and stretching should be incorporated in a comprehensive exercise program. Abdominal strengthening should be incorporated as well.
If you experience back pain, please consult your physician. Physical therapists are another healthcare resource for back problems. They examine individuals and develop plans using treatment techniques that promote the ability to move, reduce pain, restore function, and prevent disability.