I recently read a story posted by NPR discussing proper lifting mechanics and positioning for nurses when lifting and transferring patients at work. We have all heard that using proper body mechanics is important in avoiding damage to the low back, but now it seems that in many instances this is still not enough. Articles such as the one the one mentioned in the NPR story and follow up studies since show that high risk loads on the lumbar spine are still found with individuals using good body mechanics. Furthermore, having someone else assist in lifting tasks does help to decrease the weight to be lifted but can actually increase the shear stress through the discs in the low back. The shear force is believed to be elevated because it is difficult to maintain good mechanics when there are two individuals lifting. As Physical Therapists we are constantly educating patients on proper lifting mechanics and strengthening the core to try and keep the risk of injury as low as possible.
This information found in this article can then be applied to other professions and activities where a heavy load is being lifted or moved. Because of the apparent high risk nature of these activities it is important to build and maintain as much core and low back strength as possible to again decrease the risk of injury. Strong muscles in the core help to support the joints and discs in the back, therefore taking pressure off of these structures. Core strengthening should be incorporated in your weekly workout routine 2-3x/ week. Below are two exercises that can easily be done at home or added to your workout routine to help improve your core strength and hopefully prevent injury!
Plank: perform 3-5 sets of 20 second holds
Bridge: Perform 3-5 sets of 20 second holds
Always consult a health care or exercise professional before starting a work out program.
pictures: womenshealthmag.com agingyouthful.com