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“Lift with your legs!”…………..sound familiar?

In most work places I’m sure we’ve all had the same manual handling training about how to lift objects ‘safely’. However, manual handling may not be as important as we think.

New research is suggesting ‘keeping a straight back, and lifting with the legs’, does not actually help prevent back pain as first thought. The fact is, your spine is very strong and can take a lot more than what you’re made to think. The problem is that we don’t use our backs in the way our body needs us to, which means we are not always as conditioned to do all the activities we decide to do.

Sitting is much more common than moving around in this current day, and so our muscles are not used as much. And we all know, if you don’t use it you’ll lose it! If we suddenly decide to move a sofa, and we normally spend eight hours a day sitting, our muscles aren’t strong enough to cope with the sudden demand and then our back can get sore. This doesn’t necessarily mean anything is damaged, but it’s not nice all the same.

So if we don’t use manual handling techniques, how do we convince a friend to help us move house without the worry of serious injury?

Essentially, your back will usually be fine with a bit of heavy lifting. We also know that loading the spine when it is flexed or curved, is not necessarily linked to damage (think of a rower, who keeps their back flexed whilst performing high level activity under load!). However, if the heaviest thing you lift daily is your phone, lifting a sofa is going to be too much for your body without any training.

Here are some tips.

  • Don’t lift anything on your own that weighs more than what you would be comfortable lifting at the gym.
  • Incorporate weight training and lifts into your gym routine. Great for toning as well as preparing the body for daily activities that require that extra man/woman power.
  • If you have a job that requires regular heavy lifting, definitely include this into your gym routine, at a gradual and safe pace (If unsure speak with a PT). Professional athletes who are required to do repetitive movements that use lots of muscles, do strength and conditioning in addition to practice so that the muscles become more efficient at better at the task. It’s the same for us at work!
  • Make your gym exercise task specific and functional. For example, if you lift heavy bags and load them into a lorry by twisting and throwing it, you could include a dead lift and cable twist for the abs.

Article written by Finola Burrell, Chartered Physiotherapist

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