How to keep your back and shoulders injury-free when lifting on the job

By Lee Hurley

Two possibilities exist in today’s work related lifting environment. Either you are young and bullet proof, nothing bothers your back or shoulders and you can out lift the old dudes by 3 to 1. Or, you are older and wiser but can’t get as much done as you used to.  The good news is each group can teach the other something new about keeping your back and shoulders injury-free.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

It’s a great benefit to your manager and the company itself that you can lift so well and so fast. But as Dr. Peter Orange says, “what you sow today you will reap tomorrow.” All of us have friends or family with high school football injuries. So no matter how good it feels to over lift without technique or tools, keep in mind that God gave us one back and two shoulders and they don’t regrow.

Keep your long-term health in mind

Remember when they said football players were history at 30 years old? No one told Tom Brady that. He takes care of his body and his diet and wins super bowls at 40. You can hang in there with the best of them if you take care of yourself. Karen Weber a Harvard network physical therapist says “It’s a good idea to take a look at what you do routinely. Adjust what hurts and try something different. “No pain, no gain” may apply to body builders, but not to regular Joes and Jills.

Watch your Weight

They say that for every pound a person is overweight it adds three times the exertion on his or her bone structure. You don’t have to join a gym to lose weight, you can just walk and do a few bends every day. Practice something simple.  When you stand up, straighten your back and press your shoulder blades together. This simple exercise will help increase your stamina and flexibility and help keep you back and shoulders injury-free.

Ease into a new lifting job

When you take on a new set of lifting on the company floor don’t try and win the contest your first day. Start with a smaller load and let your muscles get used to the new chore. That’s called building stamina.

Be good to yourself  

We all know the person who takes the fastest route to get something done. But that same person wears himself out. Use every tool you can you to help your back and shoulders. If there is a stool, use it.  Same with dollies and any other mechanism created to help move and raise things. It’s also faster in the long run because you can load more.

Think about your posture

The Mayo staff clinic recommends you balance your weight evenly on your feet. Stand up as straight as you can and when sitting, choose an office chair that supports your spinal curves. Take out your wallet to prevent putting extra pressure on your buttocks or lower back.

Two other things to strongly consider. Wear proper clothing. When lifting, grip is important. Wearing well-fitting gloves with a gripping surface will help maintain a good hold on objects while lifting. Shoes or boots with gripping soles will also help maintain balance and stability while lifting. And listen to your body. If something feels wrong your body is going let you know.

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