Five ways to avoid back injuries

Back injuries often result from weakness and instability while performing routine chores. In today’s post, Mike Morrison, a sports performance coach at IU Health Sports Performance, shares five hints for protecting your body during daily tasks. 

Keep a neutral spine when lifting. Whenever you lift, your spine should be as straight as if you were standing upright. Imagine yourself standing at attention as you bend over and reach for something below. Most people let their bellies go soft. That habit can lead to back injuries. “You’re putting too much load on something that’s not meant to sustain an excessive amount of force,” Morrison says. Whether you’re picking up sticks or picking up your grandchild, tighten your core. It’s the most efficient way to lift.

Bend at the hips rather than at the knees when lifting. Imagine that you are about to sit in a chair. “Sit by pushing your hips back—and yes, your knees will bend, but at no point should your knees go past your toes,” he says. Doing so places unnecessary stress on the knee joint. Years of improper form can put excessive wear on knees.

Activate the muscles in your arms and shoulders when lifting. Shoulder blades should be pulled back and down. Relaxed muscles can’t hold the shoulder in place or create tension while lifting. Creating tension stabilizes the joint in its proper position and helps you lift the weight more efficiently. Efficient movement helps keep ligaments and tendons from rupturing as a result of lifting in poor or unstable positions.

Put things down as carefully as you lift them. Lifting is only half of a movement pattern. Good form and tension must be held from the moment you lift something to the time you set it down. Most injuries occur when you relax too early —usually, about the time you release. That error means there isn’t enough muscle tension to resist or maintain good form. The task isn’t done until the object is safely on the ground.

Take frequent breaks when doing challenging activities. When the body is fatigued, it can’t maintain good form. Know your limits and don’t try to power through difficult tasks. “If you’re pulling weeds, work for 15 minutes at a time, then get up and walk around to stretch out and get the blood flowing again,” Morrison says. Dividing stress into smaller parts is easier on the body. Use padding or any other aid that helps you stay comfortable and in proper form.

To receive a Functional Movement Screen or learn more about exercise that can improve your strength and stability for everyday living, contact IU Health Sports Performance, 317-848-5867.