Back injuries are among the most common injuries incurred when moving. If you work in the moving industry, an injury is a day-to-day possibility. Some of the most common back injuries you can experience when lifting heavy furniture or appliances are strains, pinched nerves, and herniated disks.
As you can imagine, these types of injuries can, at the very least, cause discomfort. More often, back injuries can be debilitating and require extended rest, medication, physical therapy, and sometimes even surgery. At their worst, in addition to lost wages, they can result in permanent disability.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to protect your back when moving heavy furniture or appliances.
1. Correct lifting technique
To decrease the likelihood of a back injury, you must lift heavy furniture correctly. Because you are probably accustomed to lifting everyday objects that are nowhere near as heavy as furniture or major appliances, you are probably accustomed to only using the muscles in your arms. However, using your arms to lift heavy objects also puts a tremendous amount of strain on your back, which increases the likelihood of a back injury. Therefore, it is important to lift using your legs.
Your legs and glutes are comprised of a lot more muscle mass than your arms, and the more muscle that exists, the more strength that is available to lift heavy objects. When picking up any object, even apparently light ones, it is extremely important to bend at the knees–not at the waist.
Bending at the knees utilizes the leg and glute muscles. Keeping your back straight when lifting further utilizes these muscles instead of the ones in your lower back. Because this technique is so important, this advice bears repeating–the safest practice in which a mover can engage is this: bend at the knees–not at the waist.
2. Turn with your feet
If you need to turn, make sure you turn using your feet, not your hips. Turning at the hips puts added pressure on your back. Turning with your feet helps prevent your back from twisting, lessening the likelihood of an injury.
3. Keep it close
Always keep heavy furniture close to your body. Doing so helps maintain a very narrow, safe center of gravity. Lifting heavy furniture away from your body can put you off balance. Once you are off balance, you will likely compensate with your arms and backs. Compensating with your arms and back is a quick process, taking a split second. When this happens, you will likely feel your mistake. If you want to stay injury free–keep it close.
4. Pushing versus pulling
Pushing heavy furniture rather than pulling it is also another great way to avoid a back injury. Doing so uses the thigh muscles. The arms are used for guiding, which is a more passive activity. Pulling uses the thigh muscles, but it also uses the arms and back.
5. Use moving tools
There are several tools available for your use to ensure a safe experience when moving heavy objects. Dollies, sliders, and hand trucks reduce unwanted back strain. Make sure to use these items as intended to further ensure your safety.
6. Strengthen your core
Your core includes your abdominal and back muscles. A strong core looks good, but more importantly, it also provides added protection for your back. It’s simple: the stronger your core, the less likely you are to hurt your back.
7. Back belt
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), there is no scientific evidence to support the use of back belts to reduce back injuries. In fact, back belts may provide a false sense of security, leading you to lift objects that are heavier than you can handle. When you do this, you risk severe back injury.