Back Injuries • Chances are you already know how painful back injuries can be, so there shouldn't be any need to convince you about the importance of protecting your back. • What you may not know is that once you have injured your back, you have an estimated 80% chance of re-injuring your back at some point in the future. • By learning ways to protect your back you may be able to beat the odds and prevent a re-occurrence.
Keep your Curves • The back muscles located along the spine are in their strongest position when the three curves are maintained. • When you work without keeping the curves (due to poor posture or awkward movements), your muscles can’t support the spine as well and the compression on the discs is uneven. • This increases your risk of back injury, so be sure to maintain the curves in your back when lifting or lowering an object!
Forces when Lifting • More force is placed on the spine when a person lifts with the back (curves are not maintained) instead of lifting with their legs (maintaining the back’s curves). • To reduce your risk of back injury, it’s important to minimize the amount of force placed on the spine, so be aware of your posture when lifting!
Anytime you bend or lean over to pick something up, you put tremendous pressure on your lower back. To demonstrate this, think of your back as a lever. With the fulcrum in the center of the lever, how many pounds would it take to lift a ten pound object? With the fulcrum in the center, it takes 10 pounds to lift the 10-pound object. However, if you shift the fulcrum to one side, it will change... If you think about it, when you bend over to pick something up, your waist acts as the fulcrum point in a lever system; and it is certainly not centered.
With the fulcrum shifted away from the object, it takes more force to lift the object. In fact, the human back operates on a 10:1 ratio. • Bending over to lift a ten pound object actually puts 100 pounds of pressure on your lower back.
Lifting from the Floor • When you add in the 105 pounds of the average human upper torso, you see that lifting a ten pound object actually puts 1,150 pounds of pressure on the lower back. • If you were 25 pounds overweight, it would add an additional 250 pounds of pressure on your back every time you bend over.
Some things may contribute to your risk of injuring your back: • Poor physical condition - Your stomach muscles provide a lot of the support needed by your back. If you have weak, flabby stomach muscles, your back may not get all the support it needs, especially when you're lifting or carrying heavy objects. Good physical condition in general is important for preventing strains, sprains, and other injuries. • Extra weight can be a big problem. Remember the fulcrum / lever principle? The more you weigh, the more stress it puts on your back every time you bend over... on a 10:1 ratio. That pot belly is not helping the health of your back.
Some things may contribute to your risk of injuring your back: • Stress - Tense muscles are more susceptible to strains and spasms. • Overdoing it - Don't be afraid to say, "This is too heavy for me to lift alone." It's important to recognize your own physical limitations and abilities. Many people have injured their backs because they were afraid to ask for help.
Stretching to Protect your Back • A few simple stretches before beginning to perform the task will warm up your muscles and increase your ease of movements. • Stretch again to cool down and decrease potential stiffness after completing the task. • Stretch periodically throughout the day.
Overhead Bends • Clasp your hands above your head and reach towards the ceiling. • Hold for 5 seconds, then slowly bend to the right for 5 seconds. • Repeat on the left side.
Calf Stretch • Place one leg in front of the other, bending your front knee. • Place your hands on top of your front thigh and gently push your hips downwards. • You should feel the stretch in the back of your rear leg.
Rotation Stretch • With your hands on your hips, slowly turn your upper body to the right side and hold. • Your hips should remain facing forward. • Repeat on the left side.
Forward Bend • With knees bent, place your hands on your knees and slowly lower your chest towards your knees and back up again.
Thigh Stretch • Hold on to something for support. • With your right hand, slowly pull your right foot towards the buttocks. • You should feel a stretch along the front of your thigh. • Hold for 5 seconds. • Repeat on the left side.
Chin Tuck • Keep your head straight and shoulders back. • Tuck your chin into your neck and hold for 5 seconds.
Is the load height located inside your "safe lifting zone"? • The safe lifting zone is between knees and shoulders. • If the load is below knee level - bend your knees and lift with your legs. • If the load is above your shoulders - use a stool or ladder. Better yet, rearrange the contents on the shelves so that heavier and more frequently needed items are placed on the mid-level shelves. If it is heavy - get help.
Look up while you lift to keep the curves in your back. Use the golfer’s lift for lightweight hard to reach items. Maintain your back’s natural curves, especially the arch in your lower back
Keep the load close to your body throughout the lift • If the item is in an awkward location, move your body closer to the load by kneeling. • If the item is on the floor, get on one knee, hoist the item to your knee, get close and then lift.
Plan the lift and test the load • Before you lift, think about the item you are going to move. Test to see how heavy it is before lifting. • Avoid lifting materials that exceed 1/3 - 1/2 of your body weight - GET HELP. • An average woman's arm and torso can lift 60% as much as a man's.
Ask for help • If the load is too heavy to lift alone, ask for assistance or use a lift assist device • At age 65, the average person's strength is 75% of someone who is 20 or 25. Endurance remains similar.
Pivot with your feet • Pivot with your feet or take several small steps instead of twisting your back. • Must you twist or stretch to get it? • Readjust the load or your position before you lift.
Placing an a Shelf • Move as close as possible to the shelf. • Spread your feet in a wide stance, positioning one foot in front of the other, to give you a solid base of support • Do not lean forward and do not fully extend your arms while holding the object in your hands. • If the shelf is chest high, move close to the shelf and place your feet apart and one foot forward. • Lift the object chest high, keep your elbows at your side and position your hands so you can push the object up and on to the shelf. • Remember to tighten your stomach muscles before lifting.
Push, don’t pull • When moving heavy objects, push them instead of pulling.
When you lift DO… • Plant your feet firmly - get a stable base. • Bend at your knees - not your waist. • Tighten your abdominal muscles to support your spine. • Get a good grip - use both hands. • Keep the load close to your body. • Use your leg muscles as you lift. • Keep your back upright, keep it in its natural posture. • Lift steadily and smoothly without jerking. • Breathe - If you must hold your breath to lift it, it is too heavy.
DO NOT… • Lift from the floor. • Twist and lift. • Lift with one hand (unbalanced) • Lift loads across obstacles. • Lift while reaching or stretching. • Lift from an uncomfortable posture. • Don't fight to recover a dropped object. • Don't hold your breath while lifting - GET HELP.
Check Your Working Posture! • Keep your head balanced naturally over your shoulders (not protruding in front of your body). • Keep your shoulders relaxed, not hunched. • Keep your forearms and thighs parallel to the floor. • Sit back in your chair for support (not on the front edge). • Adjust the back of your chair for support. • Settle your feet on the floor or footrest.
A Quick Check List • Sit directly in front of monitor and keyboard. • Make sure the top of the screen is at eye level. • Check for glare - close blinds, reposition monitor, place a shade over the screen, install a glare shield or parabolic light diffusers on ceiling. • Maintain an approximately 90-degree angle in elbows. • Keep wrists straight and aligned with forearm. • Sit "snugly" in chair to keep lower back well supported. • Keep arms close to body when typing or using mouse. • Move entire hand/wrist area when operating a mouse. • Bring frequently used items close to work area to avoid overreaching and repetitive stretching. • Place feet firmly on the floor or footrest. • Move yourself around the work area using your feet, rather than pulling with your hands. • Allow adequate leg room under workstation for stretching and periodic position changes.