Wellness | Body Mechanics for Everyday Living
By Elizabeth C. Finch, PT, Co-owner G&E Therapies
Does your back hurt? Do you have difficulty with daily functional activities? Back pain can limit your life and make you miserable. There are many reasons for back pain. It can be a congenital problem or pain from an accident but the most common cause is repetitive poor body mechanics. As a Physical Therapist (PT) I see people who frequently mistreat their spine and the small muscles supporting the spine. Proper body mechanics are simple and can be incorporated into every day life. Keep these few simple rules in mind and you will be on the way to a healthier, stronger you!
Maintain the natural curves in your back when moving around your environment. Excessive bending will put undue stress on your discs that are located in-between your vertebra. Your disc is a tiny shock absorber between your vertebrae. The disc is soft in the center and has a hard ring around the outside. You can maintain the natural curve in your back, by tightening your abdominal muscles while moving and lifting.
Always lift with your legs and your buttock muscles. They are the strongest muscles in your body. The muscles in your back are small and weak. This makes them susceptible to tearing, spasm or strain. Bend you knees and get down low, keeping your feet shoulders width apart! This will ensure you use the correct muscles to perform the lift properly.
Keep the object you are lifting close to your body and in-between your shoulders and your hips. If you lift an object and hold it arms length away from your body, it increases the weight of the object and the stress on your back exponentially!
Test the load prior to lifting it! Prepare your body and mind for the weight you are about to lift. Shift the load slightly first to test the weight, size, and stability of the object you are about to move.
Push! Don’t pull! Pushing an object keeps the small of your back in the proper alignment. When you pull, the spine loses it alignment and opens up. It is like a jelly donut; if you put too much pressure on one side of the disc, the jelly spurts out. The jelly touches your nerves and then you have pain! Disc injury may not happen the first or even the 100th time, but repetitive stain will take its toll.
Lift heavy objects with a buddy. Communication is the key. This will insure you are both ready to move the heavy weighted object. If you need to lift alone, do it in increments and watch your body mechanics.
NEVER twist. Pivot your feet during the move. Twisting puts stress on the spine and small muscles in the back! It provides the perfect opportunity to injure your back!
Clear the path! If you are in a cluttered area, you can fall over objects in your way.
If you incorporate these few simple tips into your everyday life, you can prevent unnecessary loss of work and repetitive strain to your back. If you have further questions about body mechanics or would like a work evaluation, contact your local Physical Therapy (PT) clinic. Get on the road to a happy, healthier you!