Lifting seems like such a simple thing — just bend down, pick up whatever it is you need to move, and put it where it needs to go. Simple things need to be done the right way, though, or they can have a bad result. Sprains, strain, and even breaks can happen.
Lifting a heavy weight, then, requires some preparation to get your body in the right position to move safely. Take some time to plan how you’re going to get to the weight (Pull it off a shelf? Pick it up off the ground?), where it will go (Across the room? To that nearby table?), and how you’ll get it there (By yourself? With the help of a tool like a dolly?).
You may have heard, “Lift with your legs,” and that’s because you want to keep the weight between your knees and shoulders. If you have to bend over to pick up the weight, it’s below your knees.
Crouch down and send your arms forward, so the weight you’re grabbing is at waist level or as close as you can get it. You increase the chance for strain with a load above your shoulders or below your knees. Keep the load as close as you can to the center of your body (your waist or chest) to limit the pressure on your back as you lift or carry.
If you have someone else to share the load, that’s a big help. Plan how you will lift and coordinate your movements, so you both know when to stop and when to turn. Clear your route of obstacles and anything that will make walking more difficult.
Try to move smoothly; if you need to stop for a minute to adjust how you’re handling the load (or just to catch your breath), take the time you need. Don’t try to shift your hand positions while your feet are moving. That can cause you to relax your grip and possibly drop the load, or accidentally hurt someone.
Before you grab that heavy load, take a moment to stretch! A little exercise doesn’t hurt and helps make your body a little more flexible. It’s recommended that you stretch before you start the workday and after each break.
Also stretch when you have a moment during work, to help loosen muscles that tighten up when you’re holding your body in an unusual position — for example, when you’re trying to carry several heavy boxes from one place to another. Move a few, then stretch, then get back to the task (making sure to lift properly the entire time).
Stretching will also help reduce the risk of injury from twisting your body. If you’re moving a load from your right side to your left side, for example, pick it up and shift your feet in the proper direction. Don’t twist at the waist with a heavy weight in your hands.
It seems like a lot to keep in mind for a simple activity like lifting a weight, but most of these ideas are pretty easy to remember if you take a moment before beginning your lift. You can feel the effects of carrying a heavy load for a little while after you lift it, but if you don’t prepare yourself, the negative after-effects of your work can last a lot longer.
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