Heavy Lifting without Pain

A Hispanic elf, one of Santa's helpers, struggles lifting a huge, heavy Christmas present.
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Many people hurt themselves every day from lifting heavy objects whether it is a one time project or if your job every day requires lifting.  As the weather becomes cooler and the holidays are approaching, people are lifting more heavy objects while they are cooking, setting up decorations, and the rare Charlotte snowstorm shoveling.  With these injuries, resulting pain can be experienced in the low back, neck, shoulder, arm, wrist, or hand.

With proper lifting technique, it is possible to avoid these injuries.  With improper lifting, the natural curve in your low back, a lordosis, straightens out or reverses.  This places excessive pressure and force on your spinal discs.  With this change in posture and abnormal forces in your spine, a disc between your vertebra can become herniated.  With improper squatting techniques to lift, it is also very common to place increased force on the front of your knees.  Without proper posture and lifting, there is increased stress being pulled at your shoulder joints and can transfer force all the way down your arm causing more damage and pain.  While these injuries can be avoided, injuries can still be common.  If one of the injuries does occur, your local physical therapist can help treat the condition as well as teach you proper lifting technique to avoid re-injury.

It is impossible to effectively teach someone proper lifting techniques through an article, but some tips that can help avoiding injury are as follows:

          Stand close to the object you will be lifting and center yourself over it with your feet shoulder width apart.

          Tighten your abdominal muscles

          Keep your back straight, bend your knees, and squat down to the floor.

          Keep the load close to your body and use your leg muscles to stand up.

          Do not twist your body when moving the load.  Instead, take small steps with your feet turning until you are in the correct position.

          When at all possible, ask someone to assist you with the lifting.

A lot of people thing that attention to posture and lifting techniques is only important when lifting heavy objects.  It is more important when you are lifting something heavy, but it is easy to injure yourself while lifting something light too.  If you keep your head up while squatting to lift, it might help keeping your low back in a neutral position.

If you or a loved one experiences a sharp pain after lifting something, it is important to rest and use ice or heat to alleviate some pain.  If the pain is more than muscle soreness and does not get better within a couple days, it would be beneficial to make an appointment with a physical therapist.

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Ariana Legatie
Ariana Legatie graduated from Virginia Tech in 2009 with a BS in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise and later received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Marymount University in Arlington, VA in 2013. Since then, Ariana has worked in two different outpatient orthopedics clinics in Washington, DC treating a variety of musculoskeletal dysfunctions. She has specialized in and developed a program for Women's Health/Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy and has experience with hypermobile patients, including Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Her treatment approach consists of various manual techniques as well as emphasis on core stabilization in order to improve her patients' mobility, function, and quality of life. Ariana recently moved to the Charlotte area and started working with Compleat Rehab and Sports Therapy in Mint Hill, NC.