4 - Ready, Set, Lift - Skills

Goals Information Skills Drills Questions Review

 Skills to Master

Continue taking control of your back problem by mastering the following skills. These strategies are provided to supplement your visits to the clinic. Not all choices are appropriate for everyone. Perform only the items recommended by your doctor or therapist.

Safe Lifting

The "perfect lift" is one where you lower your body down by bending your hips and knees. Your back stays erect, and you hold and lift the item from directly below you. There's less force on your back, and your hips and legs do all the work - not your back muscles. But most often, you have to bend forward to get the item. This requires timing and coordination between your back and hips as you bend forward to gather and lift the item. Imagine how you would safely lift a bag of groceries from the back seat or trunk of a car, pick a bulky object off the floor, or grab a trash container from a kitchen cupboard or pantry. The skills listed here are designed to help you gain strength and coordination in your back, hips, and buttock muscles so you can keep your back safe when you lift.

Ball Squat

Rationale

The ball squat exercise coordinates timing between your back and hips. It's a way to practice lifting with your back in the power position as you bend forward with the hips and knees.

Description

Position a large therapy ball behind your back so the ball is between your back and the wall. You should be about two feet from the wall. With your back against the ball and your feet shoulder width apart, squat down by bending your hips and knees. You need to bend forward at your hips, keeping your back in contact with the ball. Allow your hips to drop back so that you hinge forward at your hips. Your arms should point straight down toward the ground, as though you were about to grab and lift an item from the floor.

Recommendations

Keep your back in the power position. Repeat the ball squat 10 times, for two to three sets. Concentrate on timing, not speed of the exercise.

Concerns

You may have a tendency to simply squat by keeping your back straight up and down. That's not the idea. Most lifts require you to bend forward to make the lift. The ball squat is designed to get you to bend forward at the hips, while keeping your back in the power position. The action really comes from your hips. Avoid the tendency to round your back forward. Instead, keep your back in the power position at all times.

Mock Lift

Rationale

The mock lift is a way to practice lifting light objects with proper technique.

Description

Place a light object, such as a pillow or empty box, on the floor. Use the coordinated actions you practiced in the ball squat exercise to reach down and lift the object from the floor. Keep your back in the power position. Bend forward at the hips. Lower your arms toward the object by bending your hips and knees. "Set" your abdominals as you get ready to lift the item up. Return the item to the floor, and repeat the mock lift.

Recommendations

Imagine that the item you're lifting is quite heavy. Use safe lifting technique at all times. Practice five to 10 times. You may need to watch in a side-view mirror to ensure that you are hinging forward and that you are keeping your back in the power position.

Concerns

Don't just squat down with your back straight up and down. The idea is to practice hinging forward at the hips, bringing your upper body forward. This requires that your hips drop back and that you lower yourself from the hips and knees.

Lifting Styles

We are constantly faced with the need to lift items. There are a variety of lifting styles that may prove useful at different times. Practice and use the choices listed here. Your therapist may determine that one style works best for you in most situations.

Golfer's Lift

Rationale

The golfer's lift is a way to safely reach down to pick up small objects off the floor or to reach over a barrier, such as a low fence. Another option is to squat down. But let's face it. It feels sort of ridiculous to squat to the ground for something as small and light as, say, a pencil. So the golfer's lift is a nice alternative to squatting down, and it's much safer than simply bending over at the waist with your legs straight.

Description

Surely you've seen a golfer reaching into the cup after a game-winning putt. One foot stays fixed on the ground as the golfer leans forward horizontally to get the ball. The back leg points straight back to counterbalance the weight of the upper body. The back stays straight the entire time.

Recommendations

Practice the golfer's lift to pick up small items off the floor.

Concerns

To lift a light object from the floor, you may be tempted to simply keep your legs straight and bend over from your waist. Don't be fooled. This position places huge forces on your back, even if the item you're picking up is nearly weightless. The golfer's lift allows you to reach down while protecting your back. However, it requires a good bit of balance. Avoid losing your balance by holding onto the edge of a table or chair or by placing your hand firmly on your thigh.

Diagonal lift

Rationale

The diagonal lift is useful for heavier items that are close to the ground, such as a heavy box. Because this lift requires that you get down close to the item, you protect your back by making your legs do the lift.

Description

Instead of approaching an item straight on, come at it diagonally from one corner. Lower your body down and place one knee on the ground. Gather the item onto your thigh and into your lap. With your back straight and your arms secured around the item, set your core muscles, and stand straight up - making sure your head rises before your hips.

Recommendations

Practice the diagonal lift to pick up heavy items from the floor.

Concerns

You need strong legs to lift heavy items using the diagonal lift. If the item is too heavy or your legs are too weak, you may easily lose your balance during the lift. When you approach the item, first lift up one corner to see how heavy it is. If it is too heavy, get the help of a partner or a lifting device.

Power Lift

Rationale

The power lift can be used when heavier items are conveniently positioned. It protects the back by relying on the powerful and strong muscles of the hips and thighs.

Description

The power lift is similar in style to the technique used by power lifters. Position your body over the item to be lifted. Lower your body toward the item by bending your hips and knees only, keeping your back erect. Do not hunch your back forward. Grasp the item. Set your core muscles. Lift straight up by leading first with your head and then with your hips. Pull the item in close to your waist as your lift.

Recommendations

Practice the power lift to pick up heavy items that are conveniently located.

Concerns

Your hips, buttocks, and thigh muscles do the work during the power lift. Avoid the temptation to lift items that are heavier than you can handle. Again, get help if needed.

Lifting Strategies

The concepts you've learned in this session can be applied to a variety of lifting situations. The following examples are but a sampling of challenging areas that need attention when you lift. The key is to familiarize yourself with the concepts of safe lifting including lifting with your legs, keeping your back in the power position, and avoiding twisting. Once you've got the concepts, you can apply them to every lifting situation you encounter. Practice and use the choices listed here. Your therapist can work with you to refine strategies for these and other lifting situations.

Lifting Infants and Kids

Rationale

Unlike lifting a compact box with handles on it, children come in all shapes and sizes. They pose a unique challenge for safe lifting. They may be lying down, sitting up, flailing their arms, or waiting in a crib. The key to safely lifting infants and children is to always apply the concepts of safe lifting.

Description

Plan ahead. When possible, don't be in a hurry. Keep your back in the power position as you bend down toward the child, hinging at your hips and not hunching your back. Gather the child close to your chest. Rise up using your hip, buttock, and leg muscles.

Recommendations

Remember the rules of lifting and apply them in each situation where you are lifting a child or infant.

Concerns

Your natural instincts when a child needs you may be to move quickly and not to consider the health and safety of your back. Pause for just a moment in each lifting encounter to make sure you are safe and ready before proceeding to lift a child or infant.

Loading and Unloading a Clothes Dryer

Rationale

Getting clothes in and out of a dryer poses challenges to safe lifting. Wet clothes are heavy. And a large load requires repeated motions to get items in and out of the dryer. Using the concepts of safe lifting can help protect your spine when loading and unloading a clothes dryer.

Description

Place washed items into a clothes basket. Use good technique as you place the basket on the floor next to the dryer. To avoid twisting your back, bend down so that you are facing the front of the dryer. Kneeling on one knee is easiest. Bend from your hips to keep your back in the power position when placing items from the basket into the dryer. Reverse this order when removing items from the dryer.

Recommendations

Practice hinging forward and back while in a half-kneeling position. Use good technique when loading and unloading the clothes dryer.

Concerns

It may seem easiest to simply lean sideways to load or unload the dryer. Take the needed time to position your back and to move and lift safely. Your efforts help protect your spine during routine and repeated activities.

Exercises

Today's guidelines for treating low back pain suggest the value of gradually progressing in an exercise program. Your therapist will help you safely advance the exercises for your core stabilizers. Coordinating and toning the core stabilizers is vital for improving back safety when you lift.

Goals Information Skills Drills Questions Review






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