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How should you be lifting - from the back or your legs?

Statistics Canada 2010: Canadian Community Health Survey states around 1 in 5 people who were working in BC in 2012 have made claims for back problems. Back injuries account for 24% of the overall work claim injuries, followed by fingers at 11% and legs at 9%. One reason that employees might be getting these injuries is through improper lifting technique. It is not OK to lift heavy objects through the back, rather it should be done through a proper squat using your legs.

Homo sapiens have evolved to be bipedal, meaning that we stand upright on two feet. The function of our spine, described by Breaking Muscle’s article Why You Lift With Your Legs, Not Your Back is “a flexing spring mobilized by the lower body, glutes, and legs. The pelvis is the hinge connecting the two. Our erector spinae muscle group is strong enough to support our eighty-plus pound torso and approximately twenty-pound cranium when we stand upright.”
The human body is designed to use both parts of the back and majority of the legs in combination in order to lift objects. When someone bends over without engaging the legs, they isolate and flex the back muscles without the use of the legs. In order to return to an upright position, the hips and back muscles must be used. Breaking Muscle writes that the result of this action can be “a low back strain due to overstretched QL (quadratus lumborum) and longissimus (at lumbar).”

Safe Lifting Techniques

Because of the consequences of back injury, it is important to prevent them at the workplace. Washington University in St. Louis’ Department of Environmental Health and Safety wrote a few tips to keep in mind in order to prevent back injury from improper lifting: make sure the person is in good physical condition, assure they are holding the load securely- close to the body, make sure they do not twist or bend in any direction to lift, use the legs from a squatted position, and make sure the person knows to ask for help if they are incapable of lifting the item by themselves safely.

SureHire’s fitness to work program ensures that potential employees are capable of lifting the required amount of weight while using the proper technique. Using a Level 1-5 scale, SureHire evaluates each individual based on how able they are to use proper technique while lifting, giving employers the information needed to make a smart hiring decision.

Sources:

http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/why-you-lift-with-your-legs-not-your-back\
http://ehs.wustl.edu/resources/EHS%20Documents/Back%20Safety%20and%20Lifting.pdf