During this season, it is likely you have been moving around many more boxes than usual. You may recently have pulled boxes down from the attic for last minute holiday decorating, or uncovered heavy cooking appliances that you normally only use around the holidays. You might have even purchased one or two large gifts as a Christmas surprise for a family member! Whatever the case, it is important to be careful about how you are lifting heavy items, as it could cause easily avoidable back pain.
Many people suffer from back injuries. In fact, 80% of adults are estimated to experience back pain at some point in their life, and 5% of those injuries will become chronic issues (1). Fortunately, there are some great practices to strengthen your back, and several things you can do to lower your chances of sustaining an injury.
To avoid back injury while lifting heavy items such as boxes this holiday season, try to keep in mind these six suggestions:
Bend your knees to lift. By doing this, you will be able to maintain a vertical spine which will reduce your chances of injury (4).
Lift from the bottom of the object, rather than the sides. You will have a more secure grip on the object if you lift it from the bottom (4).
Carry heavy items in the “power zone”. This is the area between your mid-thigh and mid-chest, and is where you should be able to lift with the least amount of effort (5).
Keep the object close to your body by keeping your elbows close (3).
Do not twist your back as you’re lifting, and avoid tugging on the object (3).
If the object is too heavy to lift or is an awkward shape, ask someone to help! (6)
There are also several good practices to strengthen your back and prevent injuries. A couple things you could do is get regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Keeping your body in motion will help maintain a healthy spine, and keeping excess weight off your stomach will reduce strain on your back (2). Workouts that help foster a strong back and core muscles include pilates, yoga, and ta chi (3). If you sit in an office all day, some simple things you can try is to switch sitting positions frequently, and keep a pillow behind the small of your back to provide lumbar support (6).
If you do injure your back in some way, applying a hot or cold pack is often recommended (6). It would be wise to consult your Physical Therapist to receive a professional evaluation, especially if the issue persists. Keep your body in motion, but be careful not to strain your back further. For more information on helpful back exercises, read our article “Top 5 Exercises for Lower Back Pain” (7).