Ergonomics when Lifting and Carrying Heavy Objects – Tips to prevent injury

This is a part 2 of series on using proper ergonomics in everyday life. In this article, I am going to share important tips on carrying heavy objects.  You end up carrying heavy objects on many occasions without even thinking about it. Think about chores done around the house like carrying a toddler, carrying groceries inside the house, lifting a load of laundry, lifting heavy objects at work, etc. The list is long and can go on and on. In fact, as a PT, I see several cases of sprains and strains due to lifting or carrying heavy objects. This usually involves back, shoulder or wrist etc. The injury not only causes pain but also results in loss of workdays, family, and finance related stress. No one wants that, right? We need to take care of our body and use proper ergonomics all time, every time.  So, let’s talk about how to avoid injury by using proper ergonomics.

ergonomics - lifting and carrying heavy objects

The Diagram above demonstrates where a person puts stress the most while lifting heavy objects. Moreover, it also explains some right and wrong postures.  As per research, every time, we bend down at the waist to lift or carry an object, we increase our spinal pressure. This increase in pressure actually puts stress on back muscles and ligaments causing injury. Research demonstrates the spinal pressure is the highest when a person tries to lift an object while sitting down and second highest when a person rotates or twists at back with a heavy object in hand. This is what we need to avoid. Below are the tips on how and in what position to actually carry an object.

Correct Ergonomics for Carrying and lifting:

1. Get as close to the object as possible.

2. Use a wide stance with one foot forward and to the side of the object for good balance.

3. Keep your back straight, push your buttocks out, and use your legs and hips to lower yourself down to the object.

4. Slide the object as close to you as possible.

5. Put the hand (same side of your body as the forward foot) on the side of the object furthest from you.

ergonomics - lifting and carrying heavy objects

6. Use this basic lifting technique for small objects when you can straddle the load and use a wide stance.

7. Put the other hand on the side of the object closest to you. Your hands should be on opposite corners.

8. Grasp the object firmly with both hands.

9. Prepare for the lift, tighten your core muscles, look forward and upward, keep a straight and strong back.

10. Lift slowly and follow your head and shoulders. Hold the load close to your body. Lift by extending your legs

Do’s & Don’ts while lifting and carrying:

Do’s:

  • Know or test the object weight.
  • Use ergonomic lift assists when possible.
  • Plan the lift and clear your path.
  • Get help for heavy or awkward loads.
  • Keep the object in the power zone.
  • Use a wide stance for balance.
  • Use your legs to lift.
  • Pivot your feet to avoid twisting.

ergonomics - lifting and carrying heavy objects

DON’T…

  • Don’t hold your breath.
  • No bending or twisting at the waist.
  • Don’t use a partial grip (1-2 fingers).
  • Please don’t obstruct your vision when carrying.
  • Don’t jerk or lift quickly.
  • Make sure you are not pinching your fingers or toes.
  • Don’t pull a load if you can push it.
  • Please don’t forget to wear proper PPE.

Therapeutic Exercises for Lifting Heavy Objects:

Below are few exercises that can be helpful prior to weightlifting. Detailed instructions on how to do the exercises are provided in links.

  1. Calf and Hamstring Stretch:

Here, you can find detailed information about this stretch and few alternatives.

ergonomics - stretches

2. Chest Stretch:

I discussed chest stretches in detail here.

ergonomics - stretches

3. Side to Side Stretch:

You can find more stretches to correct posture here.

ergonomics - stretches

Conclusion:

It is crucial to take care of posture and thereby our body while carrying or lifting an object. It is also useful in the long run to maintain good health and avoid any chronic pain issues. Asking for help when needed and knowing what you are getting into is the best options to start with.

Stay tuned for the next article in series on snow shoveling and driving ergonomics!!

References:

http://ergo-plus.com/wp-content/uploads/WA-Handout-Proper-Lifting-Techniques.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2007-131/pdfs/2007-131.pdf

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NOTE: The contents of this blog are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, dietary supplement, exercise, or other health program.