Tips for Lifting Properly to Prevent Back Strain

Tips for Lifting Properly to Prevent Back Strain

Lifting properly is the best way to prevent back strain and injury – discover some practical tips below from back and spine specialist Branko Prpa, MD.  

You’ve heard it before. “Lift with your knees, not your back” is a mantra we all know too well. While you may always lift with your knees, you may still end up with back inflammation after you lift something improperly. Why is that the case? It’s because picking something up the right way involves more than lifting with your knees.

When you lift something the wrong way, you’re at risk for three kinds of back injuries. You can injure your muscles. The discs in your back can be injured. You can hurt your joints as well.

The 3 Primary Rules of Lifting Properly to Prevent Back Injury

In addition to using your knees to propel the weight of what you’re lifting upward, there are three primary rules to lifting properly to prevent back injury. Here they are:

Bend at Your Hips Instead of Your Back

One of the keys to picking something up safely is to bend at your hips rather than your lower back. When you’re going to pick an item up, keep your upper body upright and pointed forward as you bend at your hips.

Keep Your Chest Pointed Forward

Keeping your chest pointed forward and bending at your hips will keep your back straight, which will force your back muscles to do what they’re supposed to – maintain good posture. In this position, your knees will bend almost reflexively and your leg muscles and hips will provide the power necessary for you to lift the object you want to pick up.

Hold the Object as Close to Your Body as Possible

The further you hold an object away from your body, the more force you need to hold it up. Since the added force can strain your back, it’s vital for you to hold whatever you’re picking up as close to your body as possible to prevent back injuries.

Supplemental Lifting Rules

While you should always do your best to follow the rules listed above, there are instances when you simply can’t due to things like spatial constraints. In those instances, the following rules can help you to avoid a back injury:

Lift One Leg

If you’re going to pick up small, lightweight items from the floor, keep your knees straight, lift one leg backward and bend your opposite hip so your torso is nearly parallel with the floor. Use one arm to hang onto a stationary object like a counter while you use the other to pick something up.

Swing It

If you’re going to lift a heavy object above your waist, you can employ a controlled toss to use momentum to get the item to its intended destination. Remember to avoid twisting your body when you’re swinging an object to a different location.


If you need to move an awkward object, you can kneel behind it and lift it onto your bent knee. From there, you can straighten your back knee to move forward or use your front knee to move backward.

Make an Appointment with a Back Specialist

If you’ve lifted something the wrong way and your primary care physician can’t alleviate your pain, it’s time to see a back specialist. Dr. Branko Prpa is the Milwaukee-area’s leading back specialist. If you’re suffering from back pain, make an appointment with Branko PRPA M.D. today.

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